The South East Asian Nutrition Surveys (SEANUTS) is a large nutritional study conducted in several countries in Southeast Asia (1). In 2010-2011, SEANUTS was conducted in Malaysia, using a cross-sectional design. The total study population consisted of 3542 children aged 0.5 to 12 years, who lived in both rural and urban areas. SEANUTS aimed to provide insight into dietary intakes, food habits, nutritional status, growth, body composition, physical activity, and cognitive development and performance of children. This article covers some published results of SEANUTS Malaysia.
Dietary intake and nutritional status
Overall, both in rural and urban areas, children met the Malaysian Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) of iron, vitamin A, vitamin C and protein, as assessed using a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire (2). Less than 10% of children did not meet the RNI for these nutrients (2). In contrast, about 50% of children, both in rural and urban areas, did not meet the RNI for calcium and vitamin D. Also, 35% of children (urban) and 30% of children (rural) did meet the recommended energy intake (2).
Blood samples were taken to measure the prevalence of anaemia, iron-, vitamin A- and vitamin D deficiencies. Overall, less than 10% of Malaysian children suffered from anaemia or iron- and vitamin A deficiencies (2). However, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was high: this was found in approximately 50% of children (2).
To measure the adherence to dietary recommendations, the consumption of certain food groups, including cereals/grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fish, meat/poultry, and milk/dairy products, was assessed (3). This was done in a subgroup of 1773 children aged 7 to 12 years. For all food groups, most children did not meet the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines recommendations except meat/poultry. Especially the consumption of legumes and milk/dairy was extremely low, with less than 10% of children adhering to the recommendations (3). Regarding dairy/milk, a greater proportion of children aged 10 to 12 years had an inadequate intake compared to children aged 7 to 9 years. Furthermore, children in urban areas consumed significantly higher quantities of dairy/milk than children in rural areas and the intake was higher in children from families with higher education levels (3).
Growth and body composition
Thinness and stunting as well as overweight and obesity was measured in children living in urban and rural areas (2). The prevalence of thinness was 5.2% for children living in urban areas, and 6% for children living in rural areas. Stunting was prevalent in 8.3% of children in urban areas and 8.8% of children in rural areas (2). Overweight was prevalent in 9.7% (urban) and 9.9% (rural) of children, and obesity in 12.7% of children (urban) and 8.2% of children (rural) (2).
Physical activity was measured among a subgroup of 1702 Malaysian children aged 7 to 12.9 years using a self-reported, validated Physical Activity Questionnaire for Older Children (PAQ-C) (4). A summary physical activity score was calculated from this questionnaire and this score was then categorized as low, moderate or high (4).
Overall, 24% of the children had a low physical activity level, 50% a moderate level and 26% a high level (4). Boys were more active than girls: the percentage of boys with a low physical activity level was 18%, compared to 31% of girls. Similarly, more boys had a high physical activity level (31%) compared to girls (20%) (4).
- Schaafsma, A., Deurenberg, P., Calame, W., Van Den Heuvel, E. G., Van Beusekom, C., Hautvast, J., . . . & Khouw, I. (2013). Design of the South East Asian Nutrition Survey (SEANUTS): a four-country multistage cluster design study. British Journal of Nutrition 110(S3), S2-S10.
- Poh, B. K., Ng, B. K., Haslinda, M. D. S., Shanita, S. N., Wong, J. E., Budin, S. B., . . . & Norimah, A. K. (2013). Nutritional status and dietary intakes of children aged 6 months to 12 years: findings of the Nutrition Survey of Malaysian Children (SEANUTS Malaysia). British Journal of Nutrition 110(S3), S21-S35.
- Koo, H. C., Poh, B. K., Lee, S. T., Chong, K. H., Bragt, M. C., Abd Talib, R., & SEANUTS Malaysia Study Group. (2016). Are Malaysian Children Achieving Dietary Guideline Recommendations? Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health 28(S5), S8-S20.
- Wong, J. E., Parikh, P., Poh, B. K., Deurenberg, P., & SEANUTS Malaysia Study Group. (2016). Physical activity of Malaysian primary school children: Comparison by sociodemographic variables and activity domains. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health 28(S5), S35-S46.