British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Association between insulin-like growth factor-1, insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 and leptin levels with nutritional status in 1–3-year-old children, residing in the central region of Limpopo Province, South Africa

R. L. Mamaboloa1 c1, M. Albertsa2, N. S. Levitta3, H. A. Delemarre-van de Waala4 and N. P. Steyna5

a1 School of Physiology, Nutrition and Consumer Science, North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus), Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom, 2520, South Africa

a2 Medical Sciences Department, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa

a3 Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

a4 Paediatric Endocrinology, Vrije University Medical Centre, Vrije University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

a5 Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Unit, Medical Research Council, Tygerberg, South Africa


The present study evaluated levels of growth factors and their associations with nutritional status with emphasis on stunting in children at 1 and 3 years of age. A follow-up study on a birth cohort (n 219) of children from villages in the central region of the Limpopo Province was undertaken. Of the original cohort, 156 and 162 could be traced and assessed at ages 1 and 3 years, respectively. Data collected included socio-demographic characteristics, anthropometric measurements, dietary intake and fasting blood (collected from 116 and 145 children at 1 and 3 years, respectively) for growth factor analysis (insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, IGF binding protein (BP)-1, IGFBP-3, leptin, glucose and insulin). At 1 year it was found that stunted children had lower leptin levels while their IGFBP-1 levels were higher than that in normal children. These differences were, however, not observed at 3 years. Furthermore at 1 year the biochemical parameters were more related to length measures whereas at 3 years the parameters were more associated with weight measures. The observed stunting in this group of children may be a result of chronic undernutrition resulting in long-term growth faltering which is already evident at 1 year. Thus the observed phenomenon might be an adaptive mechanism adopted by children's metabolic processes as they grow up in an environment with inadequate essential nutrients due to poor weaning practices and consumption of a diet of poor quality, resulting in them gaining more weight at the expense of linear growth.

(Received August 25 2006)

(Revised March 29 2007)

(Accepted March 30 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr R. L. Mamabolo, fax +27 18 299 2464, email


Abbreviations: IGF, insulin-like growth factor; IGFBP, insulin-like growth factor-binding protein; PI, ponderal index