Factors associated with the nutritional status of children less than 5 years of age

OBJECTIVE To analyze if the nutritional status of children aged less than five years is related to the biological conditions of their mothers, environmental and socioeconomic factors, and access to health services and social programs.METHODS This cross-sectional population-based study analyzed 664 mothers and 790 children using canonical correlation analysis. Dependent variables were characteristics of the children (weight/age, height/age, BMI/age, hemoglobin, and retinol serum levels). Independent variables were those related to the mothers’ nutritional status (BMI, hemoglobin, and retinol serum levels), age, environmental and socioeconomic factors and access to health service and social programs. A < 0.05 significance level was adopted to select the interpreted canonical functions (CF) and ± 0.40 as canonical load value of the analyzed variables.RESULTS Three canonical functions were selected, concentrating 89.9% of the variability of the relationship among the groups. In the first canonical function, weight/age (-0.73) and height/age (-0.99) of the children were directly related to the mother’s height (-0.82), prenatal appointments (-0.43), geographical area of the residence (-0.41), and household incomeper capita (-0.42). Inverse relationship between the variables related to the children and people/room (0.44) showed that the larger the number of people/room, the poorer their nutritional status. Rural residents were found to have the worse nutritional conditions. In the second canonical function, the BMI of the mother (-0.48) was related to BMI/age and retinol of the children, indicating that as women gained weight so did their children. Underweight women tended to have children with vitamin A deficiency. In the third canonical function, hemoglobin (-0.72) and retinol serum levels (-0.40) of the children were directly related to the mother’s hemoglobin levels (-0.43).CONCLUSIONS Mothers and children were associated concerning anemia, vitamin A deficiency and anthropometric markers. Living in rural areas is a determining factor for the families health status.