The nutritional status of children under 6 years old who were assisted by the public health system in 1995 displayed a common anthropometric pattern in the provinces. Included in the analysis, the main nutritional problems were stunting (5.3-19.7%) and overweight (5.4-16.3%) and the ranking of prevailing acute malnutrition was considered low. The figures are estimated to reflect adequate prevention and/or successful nutritional rehabilitation through the Programme of Mother and Child Health. However, regional differences can be noted; specifically, overweight is more pronounced among the children of Santa Cruz (16.3%) and Chubut (12.3%). The nutritional status, for children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old, situated in urban areas, showed problems of overweight and chronic malnutrition, 3.3-12% and 3.6-22% respectively, for the same year.
Collected heights among first year school children between 1991 and 1994 display a notably high chronic level of malnutrition particularly in the provinces of Salta, Jujuy, Chaco, Formosa and Misiones. Differences between urban and rural schools can be noted: the proportion of stunting is greater among school children in the rural areas of Jujuy, Salta and Chaco.
The 1993 anthropometric evaluation of 18 year old males exhibited a nationally representative median of the index of body mass of 22.4 kg/m2, which is considered normal (18.5-25.0 kg/m2). Nevertheless, with regard to average height, the lowest value is found in Jujuy (167.5 cm) and San Luis (167.7 cm), while the national average is exceeded in Buenos Aires, Rio Negro and Cordoba.
There are no nation-wide data for the nutritional status of the adult population. However, the chief causes of illness and death among this age group include a wide range of non-transmissible chronic diseases that are related to diet and life style.
According to the only existing information collected among children under 2 years old, there is a high prevalence of anaemia (Hb<110 g/l), which varied in 1985 from 22.4% in the Centre region to 47% in Greater Buenos Aires. It is also high among women of childbearing age.
Currently there are no nation-wide data regarding vitamin A deficiency. Studies among children under 2 years old in areas with a highly concentrated population and unmet basic needs revealed a high prevalence of sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency (serum retinol < 20 ìg/dl) in 1995/96, ranging from 26% to 46%.
Iodisation of salt since 1967 represents a positive advance in the prevention of iodine-deficiency disorders. In 1993-94, the total goitre rate (TGR) among school children in the departments located in the Calchaquíes valleys and in the Andes dropped to 5%, reflecting the elimination of iodine-deficiency related disorders (IDD) (WHO, 1995).
Even though nation-wide food availability is sufficient to meet the energy needs of the population, available information on food consumption from the household expenditure survey reveals deficiencies in energy and in micronutrients among the lower-income sectors. In this connection, there is a need for redistribution measures as well as food programmes targeted on the most vulnerable groups, as well as measures designed to prevent overweight and obesity by fostering appropriate dietary habits.