Dietary intake and nutritional status of adolescent girls and young women in Durban, South Africa

  • C Napier
  • W Oldewage-Theron


The objective of the study was to determine the dietary intake and nutritional status of adolescent girls (n=156) and young women students (n=367) in Durban, KwaZulu Natal (KZN), South Africa. No national prevalence rates for stunting, wasting and underweight could be found for adolescent girls in South Africa and the significance of this study is that it is one of the first studies to report the nutritional status of adolescent girls as a group in KZN.

This study was undertaken in three randomly selected informal settlements in the urban eThekwini municipal district. One hundred and fifty six girls, aged 14 to 18, agreed to participate in the study after parental consent was given. Three hundred and sixty seven women aged 19 to 28 from three different urban post-school training institutions gave signed consent to participate in the study. All the girls and women were weighed and measured in order to determine the nutritional status of the two groups. The dietary intake was determined using three 24-hour recall questionnaires, analysed using the Food Finder version 3 software and the results compared with the DRIs for the specific age groups. The food groups consumed by the two groups were ranked from most to least consumed as follows: starchy foods (cereals, bread, roots, tubers), fats and oils, flesh foods (meat, fish, chicken), dairy (milk, cheese, eggs, yoghurt), legumes, vegetables, fruit, sauces and condiments, sugary foods (cake, sweets, cold drinks), beverages (coffee and tea), and alcohol (wine and beer).

In this study 7,7% and 5,2% of the adolescent girls and women were wasted (<-3SD )/underweight (SD <18,5) respectively, 12,8% of the girls and 30,5% of the women were overweight (>+2SD and >25, BMI) and 1,9% and 15% obese (>+3SD and >30 BMI) respectively. The majority of the girls consumed a diet low in calcium (27,6%) vitamin A (70,9%) and vitamin C (46,7%) of the EAR. A similar trend was observed in the women, who also consumed a diet low in calcium (54,2%) vitamin A (71,7%) and vitamin C (68,9%) of the EAR. Although the median iron intake was adequate, 42,3% of the girls and 59,9% of the women did not meet 100% of the EAR. For the girls as well as the women, the cereal, sugary, meat, and dairy food groups were ranked 1, 2, 3, and 4 respectively. The girls showed a low per capita intake of dairy compared to the 218g intake by women. The vegetable and fruit per capita intakes of the girls and women were very low – 57g and 169,1g respectively.

It can be concluded that overweight and obesity present high prevalence estimates in the girls and women in this study. This could be the result of poor food consumption patterns which do not meet the SA Food Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG) for health, thus compromising optimal nutrient intakes.  It is important to address the underlying causes of inadequate food consumption which result in a poor nutritional status in these age groups.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0378-5254