Diet and eating practices among adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review
This systematic review (PDF) by SPRING aims to summarize current dietary intakes, patterns, and practices of adolescent girls (ages 10–19 years) in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Adolescent girls in LMIC have poor nutrition profiles, including high risks for undernutrition, overweight/obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies. The authors found that the diet quality of adolescent girls in LMIC is generally poor. Fruit and vegetable intake is vastly inadequate, and girls are consuming high-fat and calorie-rich foods that are likely to be contributing to the rise in overweight and obesity, especially among younger adolescents (10–14 years). In South Asia and Africa, protein intake is inadequate and fat intake is low—factors which may contribute to the prevalence of underweight in these regions. Overall, breakfast skipping and snacking are highly prevalent among adolescent girls of all ages. Recommendations to fill research gaps are defined, of which one is that multi-country or global survey on adolescent diet and nutrition should incorporate consistent definitions, indicators, and measurement tools to allow better pooling of data. Policy recommendations include contextually-relevant, healthy school policies and/or regulations. For example: limit the availability of unhealthy foods throughout the day at schools and consider school-feeding or school-meal programs for vulnerable or low-income populations. Implementation recommendations are, among others, obesity prevention initiatives and programs taking adolescents’ behaviour and common practices (e.g. breakfast skipping) into account.