Adolescence is the transitional stage from childhood to adulthood. Age 10-19 period is called as the adolescence period. This stage of life is dominated by the physiological processes leading to puberty. When a child comes to the puberty stage, his/her external and internal body characteristics change, such as; physical changes, hormonal changes, neurological changes, psychological changes, social behavioral changes and health changes.
Adolescence is one of the most rapid phases of human development. They develop secondary sexual characteristics such as; facial hair growth, broader shoulders, pubic hair growth, enlargement of sexual organs in males. In females; widening of hips, enlargement of breasts, pubic hair growth is imminent. Their neurological changes link with hormonal changes. Due to these changes, their abilities such as thinking, decision making, organizing, planning etc. get enhanced. In this stage, their nutritional requirements are higher than adult stage. Even though they need to maintain their nutritional status at optimum level, they face several barriers to fulfill these needs. There are two types of barriers related with their nutrition. One is lifestyle factors and the other is the psychological factors. Food consuming out of the home, meal skipping, high consumption of junk foods, alcohol consumption, smoking, sedentary life style and heavy physical activities can be categorized as the lifestyle barrier factors. Severe dieting, weight controlling, eating disorders, social groups and their perceptions, cultural and ethical barriers can be categorized as the psychological and social factors.
Most of the adolescents are in their schooling period. So they use to eat food from outside instead homemade food. They consume more energy dense food such as short eats (ex: pastry, rolls), carbonated beverages (ex: soft drinks), junk food (ex: pizza, burger etc.). Long term consumption of those food is related with non-communicable diseases such as; obesity, Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases etc. Skipping meals is another major problem related with schooling adolescents. Most of the times they skip breakfast. Due to this problem, their educational performances get reduced. It also negatively affects the weight, hormonal health, cognition and mood.
Alcohol consumption and smoking are other major problem among adolescence boys. Alcohol consumption is related with cardiovascular diseases and alcoholic fatty liver disorder conditions in later life. Brain damages can also be occurred. Smoking affects their health severely and it increases the lung cancer risk.
As well as their physical activeness is very poor due to the busy lifestyle on academic and other social activities. Sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of obesity and other non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer etc.
Most of the adolescent girls try to maintain their body image by restricting their dietary intake. Severe diet restrictions lead to malnutrition conditions. Eating disorders are psychological conditions manifest as extremely abnormal pattern of food intake and weight control. Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are examples for eating disorders.
Teenage pregnancy is another major problem among some adolescent girls. A pregnant teen require more nutrition than adult pregnant woman because in this period both teenage mother and fetus require more nutrition for their growth and development. As a result, low birth weight babies can be delivered to teen pregnant girls. Also, a teenage girl’s uterus is not well grown and she is not mature enough to look after a baby. So the risks associated with those pregnancies are miscarriages, fetal deaths and maternal deaths. They are considerably greater in adolescence.
Adolescence is a stage where the rapid growth occurs and the nutritional needs are at peak levels. This stage is the last optimum stage to rectify nutritional deficiencies in lifecycle. So these barriers which are discussed above would prove to be critical and measures should be taken to overcome these barriers. Correcting the nutrition related problems at this stage would greatly affect the health status of a country.