Normal Adolescent Growth and Diets

Adolescence is a unique time of rapid growth, with half of eventual adult weight and 45% of peak bone mass accumulated during adolescence. Adolescence is a time when peak physical muscular development and exercise performance is reached. However, adolescent diets are often notorious for their reliance on snacks and ‘junk foods’ that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and saturated fat, which could provide extra energy for high-activity demands of teenagers, but often risk becoming part of bad habits leading to obesity and increased risk of atherosclerotic heart disease in later life. Although most studies have been on older subjects, it is now clear that many Western diseases, especially heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and many cancers, are diet related, and that diets high in saturated fat and low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber may increase risks of heart disease.

Indeed, autopsy reports of atherosclerotic plaques already present in adolescents who died accidentally suggests that prevention of heart disease should start quite early in life. Epidemiologic evidence from large cohort studies have concluded that a striking 80% reduction of heart disease and diabetes might be achieved in those with diets lower in saturated and trans fat and higher in fruits, vegetables, folate, fiber, and n-3 fish oils. Other factors include regular exercise, moderate alcohol use, and avoidance of obesity and smoking.

Nutrient Requirements About every 10 years, the Institute of Medicine convenes several committees of nutrition scientists to review the scientific literature and recommend levels of daily dietary nutrients that would keep 95% of the population from developing deficiencies. In the past, the dietary reference intakes (DRIs) or recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) concentrated on ensuring that nutrient deficiencies were minimized by specifying lower limits of intakes. However, it is now clear that many Western diets provide too much of some nutrients such as total calories, simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, and salt specified estimated average requirements (EARs), adequate intakes (AIs), and upper limits (ULs)


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