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sábado, 20 de enero de 2018

The nutritional needs of adolescents


Adolescence is the stage of sexual maturation, of the increase in height and weight as well as changes in the distribution of fat and muscle mass. All this entails high nutritional needs.

The changes described are progressive and occur over about 6 years (on average). The girls begin the change around 10-11 years reaching the maximum development about 12-13 years. From that age on, sexual maturity is complete. In children, it is later and starts around the age of 12, giving the peak of development at 14-15 years.

Each child has its own "speed" of growth and this is the reason why children that have already  fully developed share classroom with others that have barely begun the changes. There are tables that allow you to relate weight / height with age but are merely indicative since the data obtained are only approximate. If our daughter or son feels strange because he sees in his companions physical changes that do not occur in her / him it is convenient to calm him because sooner or later they will arrive and in a few years they will all be more or less equal.

The fat mass increases especially in girls reaching a proportion of 20-25%, located mainly in the hips. In boys, it decreases by an average of 15% and is located in the trunk. Muscle mass increases in both sexes up to 12 years. From that age grows steadily in boys - in the area of ​​shoulders and limbs mainly - and is slower in girls.

As for bone mass, it is between the 9 and 18 years the critical period for the acquisition of bone mineral, reaching an increase of 60%. This increase is due to hormones, to the nutrition, to the sun exposure and to the physical exercise. We say critical because if there is a deficiency in any of these parameters and the bone mass accumulation is less than expected, it will be an irreversible loss, and it will be impossible to recover it. Around the age of 17, 88% of the bone mass is reached, which will reach 100% between 25-30 years. If the adolescent has been very sedentary, has been incorrectly nourished or has little contact with the sun (and therefore little vitamin D) the mineralization will not reach the expected limit and this can affect his height.

The caloric needs of adolescents are the following, compared with other stages of childhood (they must be taken with caution since there are factors that modify them, such as the external temperature, the physical exercise performed by the child, etc.):

For children from 0 to 7 years old:

From 0 to 6 months ... ............. 650 Kcal
From 6 to 1 year ... ............. 850 Kcal
From 1 to 3 years ... ............ 1300 Kcal
From 4 to 6 years ... ............ 1800 Kcal
From 7 to 10 years ... ............ 2000 Kcal

Teenagers (girls)

From 11 to 18 years old ... ............ 2200 Kcal

Teenagers (boys)

From 11 to 18 years ... ........... 2500 Kcal

The WHO provides tables in which the consumption of calories should be 10% higher for adolescents than those previously mentioned. In any case, it is clear that adolescents need a significant amount of calories - many more than those needed for the adult - and that restricting them can mean a delay in the onset of puberty or even in the attainable height. As an example of this we have the elite gymnasts that maintain a childlike appearance at ages when other girls have already developed. When they abandon sports and eat normally, their development "restarts" although their height, due to the problem of bone mineralization, does not always recover.

The nutrients needed in adolescence are not different from those needed by children, adults or the elderly. However, teens should be especially careful with iron due to the formation of muscle mass and blood, increasing the needs of girls for menstruation. Calcium is also very important for bone mineralization, as is zinc, which is essential for growth and sexual maturation.

But adolescence is also a stage of rebellion where you question, without sufficient basis or consult with anyone except with the closest friends, eating habits. So it is not strange that teenagers ashamed of their physique - because they consider themselves too obese, because of acne, etc. - performing their own diets without any scientific basis that not only do not serve their purposes but also can cause serious health problems. The most widespread diets consist of practicing wild fasts, eliminating carbohydrates from the diet or breakfast, increasing the consumption of proteins (hyperproteic diet) or practicing physical exercise until modeling the figure according to supposed beauty canons based on exaggerated musculature (vigorexia) ).

Eliminating carbohydrates from the diet means depriving our body of clean energy. When these compounds are replaced by proteins and fats, toxic waste is generated that is harmful to the organism. Hyperproteic diets cause similar problems. Not having breakfast and alternating long periods of fasting with others of ingestion causes enormous variations of the circulating glucose with the consequent disorder that the cells of the body undergo in their feeding. Not to mention that all these practices based on misconceptions are precursors of serious eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa that do appear usually during adolescence.

There are parents who, when children reach a certain age, disregard or at least relax their attention to food. They have breakfast alone - if they do - leave school mid-morning to buy pastries at the nearest supermarket, eat at school without supervision, spend many hours alone at home or in the company of friends and meet the family only at dinner time or during weekends (not always full time). This causes disorders in the rhythm of the meals, in the intake of nutrients and ultimately in the growth and the possible development of diseases in the short, medium or long term. Interestingly, adolescents who suffered from inappetence during childhood are those who eat better if parental supervision is maintained. But if this vigilance has been relaxed without having instilled the notions of correct nutrition, it can lead to serious problems. It has even been found that those children whose nutrition education has been strict due to type 1 diabetes, for example, tend to defy the disease when they reach adolescence by eliminating doses of insulin to lose weight.

Unfortunately, there is also the danger that the adolescent starts in the consumption of toxins such as tobacco or alcohol, including drugs. These products inhibit the appetite and can even interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients, among other psychological and physical effects of remarkable severity.

Addressing nutritional or other problems with adolescent children can be complicated if the relationship has not been based on the pact or has been maintained over the years in unidirectionality, where one has spoken and ordered and the other has limited to listening and obeying (something that adolescence tends to destroy, of course). Continuous dialogue, relaxed supervision - without entering into paranoia - and mutual trust are paramount to overcome any problem. And that communication art starts from the zero moment of its existence. The later you apply it, the worse the results will be.

The rations of teenagers

The rations that teens need are markedly superior to those of children and adults. They are in full growth phase, their body already has an appreciable size and that means eating more and also better. If you are parents of  teenagers you will have realized how much they eat.

Teens should eat between 5 servings of fruit every day (two medium oranges, two dozen cherries, two plums, etc.). One of the portions can be in juice.

As for the bread always integral, around 200-300 grams per day (a baguette weighs about 250 grams, so a mid-morning snack could be made with a third of it, the rest of the bread to be consumed as an accompaniment to the lunch and dinner).

Half a liter of milk a day, in addition to some other dairys like cheese (if it is cured cheese 50 grams per serving, if it is fresh 100 grams). Yogurt is equivalent to the consumption of milk so it is interchangeable with it (if it is not sugary).

120 grams of meat per serving or 150 grams of fish or 2 eggs if these replace a serving of meat or fish up to a maximum of 5 eggs per week. ¼ chicken, turkey or half rabbit per serving.

As for the carbohydrate rations, 100 grams of pasta or 100 grams of legumes. You need to eat about 250 grams of vegetables daily. A salad a day is essential or the consumption of raw vegetables instead (gazpacho or similar).


Extracted from the book "Inapetencia infantil" by Xavier Molina

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