Recently, increasing attention has been paid to the emergence of the double burden of malnutrition within households. We provide an overview of the literature regarding this phenomenon by reviewing previous studies of the prevalence of double-burden households and associated factors together with the research methods used. Studies were identified from the electronic databases PubMed and Web of Science, using the same search terms for both. A total of thirty-five articles met the eligibility criteria, and 367 sets of prevalence data were extracted. In all, thirty-four articles were published in 2000 or later; twenty-four used secondary data and twenty-five focused on mother–child pairs. The ages of children varied from 0 to 19 years. All the studies used BMI as a nutritional indicator for adults. For children, height-for-age was most frequently used, whereas weight-for-age, weight-for-height and BMI-for-age were also used in multiple studies. The reported national prevalence of double-burden households varied from 0·0 to 26·8 % by country and year; however, few studies were directly comparable, because of differences in the combinations of undernourished and overweight persons, age ranges, nutritional indicators and cut-off points. Whereas many focused on African countries, a few involved Asian countries. Although urban residence, income and education were frequently assessed, the role of intermediate factors in nutritional status, such as diet and physical activity, remains unclear. It is recommended that future studies use comparable indicators and cut-off points, involve Asian countries, and investigate individual diet and physical activity.