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Stunting, wasting and breast-feeding as correlates of body composition in Cambodian children at 6 and 15 months of age

  • Jutta K. H. Skau (a1), Benedikte Grenov (a1), Chhoun Chamnan (a2), Mary Chea (a3), Frank T. Wieringa (a4), Marjoleine A. Dijkhuizen (a4), Christian Ritz (a1), Jonathan C. Wells (a5), Jacques Berger (a4), Suzanne Filteau (a6), Nanna Roos (a1), Kim F. Michaelsen (a1) and Henrik Friis (a1)...


The study aimed at assessing stunting, wasting and breast-feeding as correlates of body composition in Cambodian children. As part of a nutrition trial (ISRCTN19918531), fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM) were measured using 2H dilution at 6 and 15 months of age. Of 419 infants enrolled, 98 % were breastfed, 15 % stunted and 4 % wasted at 6 months. At 15 months, 78 % were breastfed, 24 % stunted and 11 % wasted. Those not breastfed had lower FMI at 6 months but not at 15 months. Stunted children had lower FM at 6 months and lower FFM at 6 and 15 months compared with children with length-for-age z ≥0. Stunting was not associated with height-adjusted indexes fat mass index (FMI) or fat-free mass index (FFMI). Wasted children had lower FM, FFM, FMI and FFMI at 6 and 15 months compared with children with weight-for-length z (WLZ) ≥0. Generally, FFM and FFMI deficits increased with age, whereas FM and FMI deficits decreased, reflecting interactions between age and WLZ. For example, the FFM deficits were –0·99 (95 % CI –1·26, –0·72) kg at 6 months and –1·44 (95 % CI –1·69; –1·19) kg at 15 months (interaction, P<0·05), while the FMI deficits were –2·12 (95 % CI –2·53, –1·72) kg/m2 at 6 months and –1·32 (95 % CI –1·77, –0·87) kg/m2 at 15 months (interaction, P<0·05). This indicates that undernourished children preserve body fat at the detriment of fat-free tissue, which may have long-term consequences for health and working capacity.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: B. Grenov, fax +45 3532 0870, email


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Shared first authorship between Jutta K. H. Skau and Benedikte Grenov.



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