Trends in Anthropometric Measures Among US Children 6 to 23 Months, 1976–2014
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Trends in Anthropometric Measures Among US Children 6 to 23 Months, 1976–2014

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    The surveillance of children’s growth reflects a population’s nutritional status and risk for adverse outcomes. This study aimed to describe trends in length-for-age, weight-for-age, weight-for-length, and early childhood weight gain among US children aged 6 to 23 months.


    We analyzed NHANES data from 1976–1980, 1988–1994, 1999–2002, 2003–2006, 2007–2010, and 2011–2014. We estimated z scores < –2 (low) and ≥+2 (high) in comparison with World Health Organization growth standards for each indicator. Weight gain (relative to sex-age–specific medians) from birth until survey participation was estimated. Trends were assessed by low birth weight status and race/Hispanic origin. Race/Hispanic origin trends were assessed from 1988–1994 to 2011–2014.


    In 2011–2014, the prevalence of low and high length-for-age was 3.3% (SE, 0.8) and 3.7% (SE, 0.8); weight-for-age was 0.6% (SE, 0.3) and 7.0% (SE, 1.1); and weight-for-length was 1.0% (SE, 0.4) and 7.7% (SE, 1.2). The only significant trend was a decrease in high length-for-age (5.5% in 1976–1980 vs 3.7% in 2011–2014; P = .04). Relative weight gain between birth and survey participation did not differ over time, although trends differed by race/Hispanic origin. Non-Hispanic black children gained more weight between birth and survey participation in 2011–2014 versus 1988–1994, versus no change among other groups.


    Between 1976–1980 and 2011–2014, there were no significant trends in low or high weight-for-age and weight-for-length among 6- to 23-month-old children whereas the percent with high length-for-age decreased. A significant trend in relative weight gain between birth and survey participation was observed among non-Hispanic black children.

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