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Nutritionists Canvass Dietary Intervention For Adolescents In Nigeria

July 18, (THEWILL) – President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), Prof. Wasiu Afolabi, has called for urgent actions by government, development partners, private sectors and other stakeholders to bridge the identified policy and data gaps, enhance coordination and increase delivery platforms to reach adolescents with a minimum package of nutrition interventions giving special consideration for nutritional needs of pregnant adolescent mothers.

Prof Afolabi also called on development partners and non-governmental organisations for more coordinated actions towards implementing adolescent nutrition interventions capable of reducing the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition in Nigeria.

According to Afolabi, these interventions, which are cost-effective and evidence-based, should include nutrition education in schools on healthy diets with emphasis on reduction in consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Others are multiple micronutrient supplementation including Iron folate and deworming using health facilities, school and community-based platforms.

In an official statement issued weekend, Prof Afolabi opined that regulating social marketing activities by the private sector to encourage healthy diets and behavioural and lifestyle intervention for overweight and obese adolescents including sporting activities are very important.

The interventions should also include providing access to a safe environment and hygiene; improved access to reproductive health services and in addition to the above, the special needs of pregnant adolescents should be considered including food supplements with adequate energy and protein and Improved access to ante-natal care services.

Prof Afolabi pointed out that despite constituting about 21% (41m) of the population and increased nutrition requirement, Nigerian adolescents remain a largely neglected, difficult-to-measure and hard-to-reach population who have not been prioritised for nutrition intervention.

Noting that Nigerian Adolescent nutrition status is not quite different from most countries of the world, Prof Afolabi said that, “Malnutrition among adolescents is marked by under-nutrition (stunting and thinness/underweight), over-nutrition (overweight and obesity) and micro-nutrient deficiencies notably Iron deficiency disorders which affect more than sixty percent of Nigerian adolescent girls aged 15-19 years.”

Other available evidence, he observed shows that vitamin A, zinc and iodine deficiencies are public health problems among children less than 19 years in Nigeria and three other African countries among others.

According to him, the review of trends from 2003 to 2013 showed a gradual increase among female adolescents 15-19 years of 18 percent and 13 percent of thinness/underweight and obesity respectively.

This, he observed, could be attributed to poor nutrition knowledge and diet quality, low dietary diversity, high consumption of junk food, and inadequate consumption of animal foods and a sedentary lifestyle.

On the way forward, Prof Afolabi said that the Nutrition Society of Nigeria believes that addressing the nutrition needs of adolescents could be a window of opportunity for the improvement of their nutritional status and correcting their poor nutritional practices; reverse growth faltering experienced during childhood.

He said: “It is also an important step towards supporting their physical growth and preventing future health problems, breaking the vicious cycle of intergenerational malnutrition, chronic diseases and poverty”.

“Furthermore, investment in advancing adolescent nutrition is critical to promote their health and development which has lifelong implications in order to secure them and their future families, communities and nation at large.”