More boys than girls among undernourished Cameroon teens
There are major differences in how well nourished Cameroonian teenagers are. Differences between city/countryside, boys/girls, and among individuals with high and low socioeconomic status are described by Léonie Nzefa Dapi in the dissertation she is defending at Umeå University in Sweden.
Cameroon's population are changing their eating habits. Instead of traditional diets they are consuming more and more processed, sweet, and fat foods. The rapid shift in dietary habits is taking place at the same time as people are getting less and less physically active. This has resulted in a rather high incidence of overweight individuals, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and type-2 diabetes. Nutrition is important during the adolescence period during for growth, health, cognitive development, and school achievement.
The aim of the dissertation is to estimate boys and girls dietary intake, body measurements, and physical activity in various social groups and to study how teenagers, in cities and in the countryside, perceived food.
Girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 16 were randomly selected from schools in rural and urban areas. The percentage of overweight was three times higher among girls (14 percent) than among boys (4 percent). Stunted growth was twice as common among teenagers in the city with low socioeconomic status (12 percent) compared to those with high status (5 percent). Rural youths had more muscle mass than urban youths. In rural areas they ate to survive and maintain their health. Urban youths with low socioeconomic status also ate to maintain their health, while those of higher status ate for fun. More than 30 percent of youth in cities skipped breakfast. Urban adolescents with high socioeconomic status, and girls, reported more often that they ate snacks and most food groups.
More than half of the youths had a protein intake below recommendations. Twenty-six percent of young people had a fat intake below recommendations, and one fourth had a fat intake above recommendations. A Major proportion of the teenagers had an intake of micronutrients that was below the recommended level. Boys and youths with low socioeconomic status reported higher energy burning and physical activity than girls and youths with high socioeconomic status. Both under-and over-reporting of energy intake was common among the youths.
The study shows that nutritional deficiency, stunting, and obesity as well as excess weight were common among teenagers in Cameroon. It is therefore necessary to set up preventive programs targeting both over- and undernourished school children. Such a program needs to take into account gender and socioeconomic differences.
On Friday, February 5, Léonie Nzefa Dapi, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology, and Global Health, Umeå University, will defend her dissertation titled Socioeconomic and sex differences in adolescents' dietary intake, anthropometry and physical activity in Cameroon, Africa.
The public defense will take place at 1:00 p.m. in Room 135 of Epidemiology and Global Health, NUS. The external examiner will be Professor Thorkild Tylleskär, Center for International Health, Bergen, Norway. The dissertation will be defended in English.