Nutrition Health Education as Model to Reduce Overweight and Obesity in Adolescents

Rapid Communication

Int J Nutr Sci. 2019; 4(1): 1031.

Nutrition Health Education as Model to Reduce Overweight and Obesity in Adolescents

Romeo IM and Tucci P*

Department of Pharmacy, Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Calabria, Italy

*Corresponding author: Paola Tucci, Department of Pharmacy, Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Calabria, 87036 Rende (CS), Italy

Received: April 18, 2019; Accepted: May 10, 2019; Published: May 17, 2019


Background: Adolescent is a critical age characterized by deep physiological, psychological, and social changes. It is also considered a nutritional risk period since high intake of processed or sugary foods, long gaps between meals and low consumption of fruits and vegetables could result in overweight and obesity. Nutrition interventions are a cost-effective way to promote health behaviors and reduce obesity and chronic diseases among teens. Thus, the aim of this study was to improve adolescents’ nutrition knowledge and to examine the effect of such interventions in adolescents aged 9-13, who were recruited from a public school in a small town in Calabria, Italy.

Methods: The methodological approach, lasted one year, was based in nutritional information and health-related behaviour (habits, lifestyle…), through a structured questionnaire, in measuring different nutritional parameters including height, weight, waistline and body mass index (BMI), and then in several classroom meeting with teens and their families.

Results and Conclusion: The results showed that nutrition health education had a positive impact on health in terms of measured anthropometric parameters, and that parental support had an important role in adolescents’ healthy eating habits and food choices.

Keywords: Adolescence; School; Nutrition; Diet; Health


Overweight and obesity among children and adolescents is one of the most serious public health issue of the 21st century with about 170 million overweight children globally under the age of 18 [1]. In Europe, in spite of the “Mediterranean Diet”, the highest prevalence of childhood overweight is in Italy, especially in the Southern part. The health consequences are extremely serious, as an obese child is very likely to be an obese adult. Raised Body Mass Index (BMI) is a major risk factor for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers, including breast, colorectal, kidney and oesophageal cancer [2,3]. These diseases not only cause premature mortality, but also long-term morbidity. In addition, overweight and obesity in children are associated with significant reductions in quality of life and a greater risk of teasing, bullying and social isolation [4].

Diet, along with the environment in which children grow up, to lifestyle behaviours and physical activity, contribute to the risk of becoming overweight or obese affecting health status in adulthood.

Thus, the aim of this study was to examine the impact of a nutrition education and relative life-style interventions among teens in a small city of the South Italy.

Materials and Methods

Subjects and study design

The present study was conducted among adolescents aged 9-13, who were recruited from a public school in Mammola (RC), a small town in the South of Italy. Before carrying out the study, permission was obtained from the head of the school, and written consent was also received from each student’s family before taking part.

The methodological approach, lasted one year, was divided in two phases: pre-intervention and post intervention. Each phase consisted in a questionnaire, a food diary and in anthropometric measurements. Between them a series of classroom meeting with teens and their families were held.

Questionnaire, Interviews and analysis

To collect dietary pattern-related information in youth we formulated a questionnaire, divided into three sections: (1) sociodemographic characteristics (gender, age, residence, attended school, and class); (2) eating habits (consumption of breakfast, types of food/beverages consumed and their frequency, frequency of consuming takeaway meals and meals out with diet quality); (3) lifestyle (sleep time, free time, physical activity, time spent in front of PC/TV/smartphone). The questionnaire, filled in by the students anonymously, was assessed pre- and post-intervention. In addition, children kept a food diary for the entire duration of the project.

Anthropometric measurements were carried out following a standardised protocol [5] for height, weight, abdominal, waist- and flanks- circumferences, and BMI. In children and adolescents, this kind of measure are simple ways of assessing nutritional status. Participants were asked to wear light, indoor clothing without coats and shoes, and stand with feet adjacent and in an upright position. Weight was measured using a portable digital scale (Seca 877) with 0.1g precision; height was measured using a portable stadiometer (Seca 217) with 0.1cm precision; BMI was calculated from the formula: weight (kg) divided by height squared (m2).

Between the two phases, we conducted several meeting (1-2 per month) with teens and their families in the school, based on guidelines and recommendations for a correct nutrition and healthier lifestyle. In this regard, the Mediterranean Diet, characterized by a high consumption of whole cereals, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, a moderate to high consumption of fish, a moderate consumption of dairy products, a low consumption of red meat, has been indicated as one of the healthiest dietary patterns [6]. Moreover, the component of this diet are rich in minerals and vitamins, including iron, calcium, iodide, vitamin A and D, essentials for their age, and for decreasing the risk of micronutrient deficiency. Thus our approach was based on environmental support for healthy diets (eating more fruit and vegetables, cutting the amount of fatty, sugary foods in the diet) and on regular physical activity (engaging in daily moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes).

Statistical analysis

Data were summarized into frequencies and percentages, or as mean value ± SD. Stata version 14 statistical software package was used in conducting all data analyses [7].

Results and Discussion

In total 130 adolescents, aged 9-13 years, participated to the study. Anthropometric measurements were performed and weight status was categorized based on the BMI percentile: underweight (‹5th percentile), normal weight (5th to ‹85th percentile), overweight (85th to ‹95th percentile), and obese (=95th percentile). Then teens were categorised into two weight status categories: underweight/ normal weight and overweight/obese (Table 1A pre-intervention).