Nutritional status and adequacy of feeding Practices in Infants and Toddlers 0-23.9 months living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE): findings from the feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) 2020

Leila Cheikh Ismail, Ayesha S. Al Dhaheri, Sarah Ibrahim, Habiba I. Ali, Fatima Al Zahraa Chokor, Lynda M. O’Neill, Maysm N. Mohamad, Amira Kassis, Wafaa Ayesh, Samer Kharroubi, Nahla Hwalla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Infant and young child feeding practices (IYCF) impact the early and later health status of the population. Limited data is available regarding IYCF in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This study aimed to evaluate the nutritional status and adequacy of feeding practices, energy, food, and nutrient intakes of UAE infants and toddlers ages 0-23.9 months. Methods: This study is a population-based cross-sectional survey of 276 infants and toddlers aged 0-23.9 months of which 180 were nationals and 96 were Arab non-nationals living in the UAE. Data were collected from the three major emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. Anthropometry was collected and assessed using WHO Anthro-Survey Analyzer, and a multicomponent age-specific questionnaire was used to evaluate IYCF and sociodemographic characteristics. Usual intake of energy, micronutrients, and macronutrients, including supplements, were collected using multiple-pass 24-h dietary recall and analyzed using the PC-side software. IYCF practices were assessed using the WHO indicators. Results: Overall, 4% of children were malnourished, 8% wasted, 15% stunted, 18% at risk of overweight, and 7% overweight and obese. 95% of infants were ever breastfed and 37% exclusively breastfed at 6 months. Around 98% of infants had a timely introduction of complementary food. Macronutrient intake exceeded AMDR for fat, carbohydrates, and protein for 27%, 8% and 2% of toddlers respectively. As for the percentage of those exceeding the ESPGHAN cut-off for free sugars set at 5% of energy intake, 28.6% had excessive intakes overall, 10% in 0-5.9, 21.9% in 6-11.9 and 56.7% in 12-23.9 month. Usual iron intake was below the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) in 47% of infants 6-11.9 months. Above 12 months, the usual intake of iron and vitamin D were below EAR in 11% and 49% of toddlers respectively. Usual intake exceeded the tolerable upper intake levels (UL) for vitamin A (14 to 18%) and zinc (11 to 22%) across all ages. Approximately 93% of toddlers ages 12–23.9 months did not meet food groups’ recommendations for vegetables, 87% for fruits, 48% for milk/dairy, 54% for lean meat and beans, and 33% for grains. Conclusions: This study revealed that a high percentage of infants and toddlers aged 0-23.9 m suffer from a double burden of malnutrition, which is the coexistence of both undernutrition, and overweight and obesity in the same population. In addition to suboptimal feeding practices and inadequate/overconsumption of various nutrients. The findings highlight the need for the development of culturally specific programs aiming to improve the nutritional status of infants and toddlers in the UAE.

Original languageEnglish
Article number319
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Breastfeeding
  • Complementary feeding
  • Food intake
  • Infants and toddlers
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Stunting
  • United Arab Emirates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Nutritional status and adequacy of feeding Practices in Infants and Toddlers 0-23.9 months living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE): findings from the feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) 2020'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this