One may be wondering why nutrition in adolescence is included in the series of Nutrition-School-on-the-Air: First 1000 Days. But before any prejudice, let us first look back at a basic biology lesson: the human life cycle. In the human life cycle, adolescence (13-19 years old) is the period of transition between childhood, specifically the primary school stage (5-12 years old) and adulthood (36-55 years old). Big changes happen during this stage such as cognitive, social, emotional, sexual, and most especially, physical changes in a person. The adolescence stage in one life’s cycle is a very important window of opportunity wherein one’s poor nutritional practices and behaviors can be corrected and their nutritional status can also be improved. This is also the stage where any nutritional deficiency that the person acquires or experience can have a significant or major impact on their health or the health of their future children which is why it is considered as a critical period. Optimum nutrition in the body is needed in ensuring full growth potential is achieved.
According to the 2015 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), 25% of adolescents in the country are stunted while 14.4% of them are wasted. An alarming 10.8% of adolescents were also recorded to be overweight or obese which is higher than the national prevalence rate of 8.3%. This can only mean that a significant number of adolescents in the country are not getting the optimum nutrition they need to reach their full growth potential, which also puts them in a vulnerable position from diseases and infection.
Nutrition in the adolescent stage should be given a focus on, especially for females as this is the time to prepare the body for the nutritional demands that will happen during pregnancy and lactation in later life. In making sure that the adolescent female is getting the optimum nutrition, there is a bigger possibility that during her pregnancy later in her adult life, complications during pregnancy can be avoided, including fetal/infant complications. Poor nutritional choices made during the adolescent stage can greatly impact one’s adult life which then can affect one’s pregnancy.
Ms. Margarita S. Natividad, Nutritionist-Dietitian IV of Department of Health-Central Luzon Center for Health Development (DOH-CL CHD) was again invited for this episode of Nutrition-School-on-the-Air to share her expertise on this matter. Ms. Natividad first gave a recap of the concept of First 1000 Days and how nutrition in adolescence is directly related to it, as well as a brief overview of the human life cycle. Ms. Natividad also mentioned the changes and development in the body that occurs during this period like cognitive, social, emotional, sexual, and physical maturation of the body. Ms. Natividad also explained that this is the period where one develops their full potential height. Ms. Natividad emphasized that because of the rampant advertisements of foods that are usually unhealthy (calorie-densed but lack in nutrients) in social media, behavioral change in adolescents must be given a keen focus on for a successful management of nutrition and weight during this important period. Children and adolescence alike should also be educated and provided with healthy food choices especially in schools where guidance from the parents is limited and pressure is most common among peers to choose unhealthy food, e.g. fast food, above healthy food, unhealthy eating habits, and the development of vices (smoking and alcohol) which are detrimental to health.
Ms. Natividad mentioned various efforts that the agencies are doing to prevent malnutrition in adolescents and its effects, with the distribution of ferrous sulfate and folic acid tablets to adolescent females as one example among others, which can help prepare the body for pregnancy especially now with the alarming trend of adolescent children getting pregnant. Lastly, Ms. Natividad reiterated and reminded everyone of the saying that the “youth is the hope of the future” and we must continue caring for them, especially their health and nutrition for them to be able to help build a better nation.
As a parting message, co-host Antonette Garcia, Nutrition Officer I of National Nutrition Council-Region III, gave some advices on how adolescents can take better care of their health and achieve better nutrition which are as follows:
- Limit consumption of fast-food;
- When eating at restaurants, instead of upgrading to a value/large/ or super-size meals, just opt for the regular serving sizes;
- Limit consumption of salty, fatty, and sugary foods and drinks; and
- Consume more than 8 glasses of water every day.
By: Antonette Gail D. Garcia, Nutrition Officer I