NUTRITION THE FOUNDATION OF LIFE

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ADOLESCENCE is the link between childhood and adulthood. This is the age when physical and hormonal changes take place, causing stress to the body.

 Nature has designed a human being such that one has a ravenous appetite during adolescence to meet the demands of the growing body. As the child grows, he/she has to study more and participate in more activities, thus requiring more energy. Healthy eating during adolescence is important as body changes during this time affect an individual nutritional and dietary needs.

During adolescence children start becoming particular about food, usually preferring to go out and eat with friends, thus influencing one another in the choice of food. The net result is that, mostly, they tend to fill their bellies with junk food with no nutritional value.

Adolescents who become pregnant are at greater risk of various complications since they may not yet have finished growing. Pregnant adolescents who are underweight or stunted are especially likely to experience obstructed labor and other obstetric complications. There is evidence that the bodies of the still-growing adolescent mother and her baby may compete for nutrients, raising the infant’s risk of low birth weight, creating more awareness on the importance of girl nutrition.

Nutrition of the adolescent girl is particularly important but under-nutrition (too little food or food lacking required nutrients) in adolescents frequently goes unnoticed by their families or the young people themselves. Adolescence is a time to prepare for the nutritional demands of pregnancy and lactation that girls may experience in later life. Under-nutrition negatively affects adolescent girls by:

•Affecting their ability to learn and work at maximum productivity;

•Increasing the risk of poor obstetric outcomes for teen mothers;

•Arresting the healthy development of future children;

•Affecting sexual maturation and growth: and

•Preventing the attainment of normal bone strength and the development of healthy teeth if a youth doesn’t get enough calcium.

Children born from under-nourished mothers are most likely to be malnourished (under nutrition) and children born from malnourished (over-nutrition) are predisposed to being obese which leads to other complications such as; cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Under peer pressure, an adolescent may start taking alcohol or drugs. This can negatively impact the overall health and nutritional status. Adolescents need to realize that proper nutrition taken at this stage of life strengthens the body, not only at this time, but for life.

Deficiency of necessary calories and nutrients can cause behavioral changes in adolescents. Undue agitation or depression in them is, at times, due to malnutrition.

Childhood and adolescence obesity is yet another issue for concern, the amount of physical activity is much less as compared to their potential. Due to high consumption of junk food, there is intake of empty calories which results in obesity.

To get rid of this obesity, many adolescents resort to crash dieting, which is not healthy and deprives them of essential nutrients. To remain healthy at this stage and throughout life, adolescents have to pay attention to nutrition. Fast foods should be reduced and replaced by nutritious local available foods.

Adolescents should be taught about the value of good nutrition in schools and in the communities because in this age they are more amenable to outsiders than their parents. adolescent  nutrition is the most important stage in life, if a good behavior practice of good nutrition amongst the adolescents is improved will see less children to be stunted or malnourished and improvement on the cognitive development , body development etc..

Nutrition education can be merged in already existing platforms in school clubs and communities .bringing in activities such as debate and quiz on nutrition will keep the adolescents interested in learning more about the importance of adolescent nutrition. Lastly there is need to train and have more youth leaders for nutrition country wide this will enable to see more of different activities happening around the country.

 Media can also help in addressing this problem by highlighting the harmful effects of junk food and promoting use of healthy food. Adolescents are the future leaders of tomorrow and thus to keep them healthy should be concern for all.

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