Nutritional status and dietary intake of adolescent girls in Mandlenkosi High School, Lindelani
Silangwe, Beauty Nontuthuzelo
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Background: Assessing the nutritional status of adolescents could be a catalyst in addressing malnutrition at an early age and at a school level. Objectives: The study was conducted to examine the nutritional status and dietary pattern of adolescent girls attending school in Lindelani, KwaZulu-Natal. Methods: Adolescent girls were selected from a randomly selected high school. A total of 157 adolescent girls aged 13 to 18 years were surveyed for socio-demographic indicators, nutritional status and dietary intake. Data were collected by interviewing the adolescent girls and the parents using pre-designed and pre-tested questionnaires. Weight and height were measured and socio-demographic data collected by means of a questionnaire. Dietary intake data were gathered by using two 24hr recall questionnaires and a QFFQ. Results: The findings indicated that adolescent girls in Lindelani face two distinct nutrition situations, underweight and overweight. The nutrient intake was compared with the dietary reference intake (DRI). The prevalence of undernutrition (7.6%) among the participants assessed as stunting (height-for-age) was based on the usual pattern of food intake. The results revealed that 92.4% of the girls were of normal height for age (>-1SD to +3SD), 10.8% were overweight (>+2SD to <+3SD) and 1.9% were obese (>+3SD). Consumption of high carbohydrates based food items was prevalent and carbohydrate intake correlated positively with the BMI-for-age Z-score. The income of the household was assessed, however, there was no statistically significant correlation (p=0.442) between BMI-for-age (Z- scores) and the caregivers level of income. For the intake of protein and dietary fibre, at least 40 and 144 participants, respectively, did not meet the dietary recommended intake measured by the 24hr recall. The study explains that not only is there under and over nutrition in this group but also inadequate micronutrient intake, especially of essential nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium. A substantial proportion of the girls did not consume adequate folate. The households that reported to have had adequate food at all times were only 29.3%. Conclusion: The results show a lack of dietary variety, which may contribute to the nutrient deficiency. Both undernutrition and overnutrition was prevalent among the girls. The majority of the population had a lower energy intake than recommended. Intervention strategies are needed to improve the dietary intake of adolescent girls and overcome the crisis of malnutrition.