Rationale: Adequate nutrition is essential for normal growth in childhood and adolescence. The high growth rate during adolescence demands high amounts of energy and various nutrients. During puberty, unlike infancy and early childhood, boys and girls of the same age have gender-specific nutritional needs. Our aim was to examine the associations between the dietary intake of male and female adolescents and their anthropometric measures.
Methods: This cross-sectional study included healthy pre-pubertal girls ≥9 years and boys≥10 years who were recruited to four groups: (a) short and lean (SL) girls (n=31), (b) SL boys (n=32) (height and weight <10th percentile for age and gender, and weight ≤height percentile), (c) control girls (n=24) and (d) control boys (n=24) (height ≥25th percentile, BMI 5th-85th percentiles for age and gender). Participants and their parents completed a 3-day food diary, and sleep, physical activity, quality of life, and self-assessment questionnaires.
Results: SL boys consumed less total energy, protein, and fat (P<0.05) but a similar amount of carbohydrates compared to male controls. However, energy, protein and fat intake per kg body weight were similar in both groups, while carbohydrate consumption/ kg was higher in the SL boys (P≤0.001) than in controls. SL boys consumed less iron (P<0.001), zinc (P=0.005), vitamin A (P<0.001), calcium (P=0.005) and vitamin C (P=0.034) than controls (absolute levels and percent of RDA), and reported less hours of sleep during weekdays (P<0.001). SL girls consumed similar amounts of total energy, fat, and carbohydrates, and tended to have a lower total protein intake (P=0.059) compared to female controls. When adjusted to weight, intake of carbohydrates per kg was higher (P=0.007), and fat per kg tended to be higher in the SL girls (P=0.082), compared to control girls. Micronutrient intake was similar, except for a tendency towards lower vitamin A intake (absolute and percentage of RDA) in the SL girls compared to controls (P=0.069). No differences in sleep patterns were observed between the female groups. No between-group differences (in both boys and girls) were observed in quality of life, self-esteem and physical activity level.
Conclusions: Nutritional quality and sleep habits of short and lean boys were poorer than that of controls. The quality of nutrition in short and lean girls was not clearly poorer than that of controls. The results highlight the need for surveillance and intervention to improve nutrition quality and sleep patterns in short and lean children, especially boys.
15 Sep 2022 - 17 Sep 2022