South African Journal of Child Health
On-line version ISSN 1994-3032
ONYIRIUKA, A N; UMORU, D D and IBEAWUCHI, A N. Weight status and eating habits of adolescent Nigerian urban secondary school girls. S. Afr. j. child health [online]. 2013, vol.7, n.3, pp. 108-112. ISSN 1994-3032.
BACKGROUND: Obesity in adolescence is common, and eating habits are a key determinant. Eating habits in adolescence often differ substantially from those in any other phase of life. OBJECTIVE: To assess the weight status and eating habits of adolescent urban secondary school girls in Benin City, Nigeria. METHODS: In this school-based cross-sectional study, data were obtained on the subjects' eating habits via a structured anonymous self-administered questionnaire, while their weights and heights were obtained by direct measurements. The body mass index (BMI), calculated as weight/height (kg/m2), was used in assessing the weight status of the participants. The study sample was 2 097 adolescent urban public school girls, aged 12 - 19 years. Information was obtained on frequencies of skipping meals, reasons for skipping meals and food choices, as well as the socio-demographic characteristics of the participants. All the students at the two study schools were invited to participate. RESULTS: The mean age of the participants (± standard deviation) was 14.8±1.9 years (95% confidence interval (CI) 14.7 - 14.9). Slightly over half (52.6%) were from families of middle socio-economic status, and 84.7% of them lived with their parents. Of the 2 097 participants, 1 009 (48.1%) admitted to skipping at least one meal a fortnight. Of the three main meals, breakfast was the most frequently skipped (46.3%) and dinner the least frequently skipped (21.5%). With regard to age, the frequency of skipping meals was 30.1%, 50.4% and 58.5% among participants aged <14 years, 14 - 16 years and ≥17 years, respectively (p<0.001). The two leading reasons cited by participants for skipping breakfast were lack of appetite and time. Only 15.2% of the participants reported daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. Over half of the participants (60.2%) ate fast food at least once a week, with more than three-quarters of them (76.4%) consuming fast food along with soft drinks. The prevalences of both overweight (24.5% v. 13.2%) and obesity (2.5% v. 1.1%) were higher among girls who skipped meals compared with their peers who did not skip meals (odds ratio 0.4, 95% CI 0.32 - 0.50). CONCLUSION: Meal skipping was associated with an increased prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescent schoolgirls.