Journal Article

Survey of the Growth Characteristics and Body Composition of Fulani Children in a Rural Hamlet in Northern Nigeria

R. H. Glew, C. A. Conn, R. Bhanji, P. Calderon, C. Barnes and D. J. VanderJagta

in Journal of Tropical Pediatrics

Volume 49, issue 5, pages 313-322
Published in print October 2003 | ISSN: 0142-6338
Published online October 2003 | e-ISSN: 1465-3664 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/tropej/49.5.313
Survey of the Growth Characteristics and Body Composition of Fulani Children in a Rural Hamlet in Northern Nigeria

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This paper reports the results of a cross‐sectional study of the growth of Fulani children, aged 1–16 years, living in the Jos Plateau of northern Nigeria. This particular population of Fulani are semi‐nomadic pastoralists whose economy and culture are centered on cattle. We measured the heights and weights of 176 girls and 164 boys and determined their body composition parameters (fat content, fat‐free mass, and phase angle) using bioelectrical impedance analysis. The body mass index values for the boys and girls were 14.9 and 15.0 kg/m2, respectively. When the heights and weights of the Fulani children were compared against World Health Organization standards, the incidence of stunting and underweight was high: 46 per cent of the girls and 57 per cent of the boys, respectively, had weight Z‐scores below −1.0, and 42 per cent and 57 per cent had height Z‐scores below −1.0. Even when weight was adjusted for height, the boys and girls fell well below their age‐ and gender‐matched standards. The percentage fat content of the children declined with age such that by age 16 years the fat content of the boys was 10 per cent and that of the girls 20 per cent. Although the Fulani children were significantly shorter and lighter than the international standards, their phase angle value (determined by bioelectrical impedance analysis), which is a measure of body cell mass and the overall vitality and health of tissue membranes, was comparable to those of similarly aged healthy children in the United States. These results indicate that although a large proportion of the Fulani children who inhabit the Jos Plateau are stunted and underweight, the bioelectrical properties of their tissue membranes suggest that they are relatively healthy. It is not known if the slow growth of the Fulani children has a genetic basis or if it is the result of nutritional shortcomings.

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Subjects: Paediatrics

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