Total Usual Nutrient Intakes and Nutritional Status of United Arab Emirates Children (<4 Years): Findings from the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) 2021

Lara M. Nassreddine, Farah A. Naja, Nahla C. Hwalla, Habiba I. Ali, Maysm N. Mohamad, Fatima Al Fatima, Lara N. Chehade, Lynda M. O'Neill, Samer A. Kharroubi, Wafaa H. Ayesh, Amira N. Kassis, Leila I. Cheikh Ismail, Ayesha S. Al Dhaheri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The transition from a predominantly milk-based diet to a diverse family diet is a window of opportunity for optimal child growth and development. Objectives: The study aims to examine the nutritional status and food-consumption patterns of children under 4 y of age in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and their adherence to nutrient and dietary recommendations. Methods: A population-based cross-sectional survey of 525 children aged 0-47.9 mo was conducted in 3 major emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. Anthropometric measurements were obtained, and dietary assessment was conducted using the 24-h dietary recall approach. Usual intakes of energy, macronutrient, and micronutrients, including from supplements, were assessed using PC-SIDE software. Adherence to food-group recommendations was evaluated based on the American Heart Association/American Academy of Pediatrics dietary guidelines. Results: Among 0-4-y-old children, 10% were stunted, 6% were wasted, 17% were at risk of overweight, 5% were overweight, and 3% were obese. The contribution of sweets and sugar sweetened beverages to energy intake increased from 5% in 6-11.9-mo-old children to 17% in 36-47.9-mo-old children. Compared with dietary guidelines, the lowest adherence was for fruit (13-18%) and vegetables (7-12%), while protein was within the recommendations, and 92% and 89% of children (aged 24 to 35.9 mo and 36 to 47.9 mo, respectively) had high intakes of saturated fat. Almost all toddlers failed to meet the Adequate Intake for fiber. The proportions of children exceeding the free-sugar upper limit increased from 10.6% in infants (0-5.9 mo) to 56.7% in toddlers (12- 23.9 mo). Micronutrient inadequacies were observed, particularly for calcium, zinc, folate, and vitamins A and D. Conclusions: This study suggests a triple burden of malnutrition among infants and young children in the UAE. Results call for national nutrition intervention strategies aimed at improving dietary quality in the pediatric population.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernzac080
JournalCurrent Developments in Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2022


  • United Arab Emirates
  • dietary adherence
  • dietary intake
  • food-consumption patterns
  • infants and toddlers
  • malnutrition
  • obesity
  • overweight
  • stunting
  • young children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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