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Katelyn Pugsley

Sex differences in under and over nutrition among school-going black


teenagers in South Africa: an uneven nutrition trajectory
Introduction
International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) and World Health Organization (WHO) have
been examining health patterns all over the world and identified developing countries and middle
class countries as being in the highest to have future health problems. There are 12.6 million
children in South Africa that attend school, 85 percent of them are black Africans. Teenagers are
more likely to take risks, making them more prone to health problems such as being overweight
or underweight (anorexia) which could lead to disease.
Researchers chose this subject because it states that, nutritional changes need to be
studied in this vulnerable population group (Jinabhai et al, 2007). Researchers studied South
African teenagers and compared their nutritional habits to those of teenagers in other countries.
Some political changes in South Africa have led to some improvements on their diet and exercise
habits. Researchers suggested that because most children attend school, the schools can
implement good eating habits and exercise to reduce future health problems and disease in
teenagers.
The researchers objective was to gather nutritional information about different genders
in teenagers from South Africa. They would then compare it to nutrition status of teenagers from
other countries. They were trying to discover how new political changes in a developing country
have effected teens nutritional habits.
Understanding nutritional habits and maybe implementing good eating and exercise
habits in school (especially if a lot of children attend school in that country) can possibly change

or decrease the risk of health problems later on in the teens lives. Knowing nutritional habits of
teens and different gender as well can help health professionals and any adults associated in their
lives better the futures of their kids. The researchers hypothesis was that Black South African
teens have unbalanced nutrition, whether they have over nutrition or under nutrition.
Materials and Methods
The National Department of Health did a survey on South African youth risk behavior.
They investigated a range of risk taking behaviors in a cross-sectional study questionnaire. They
used a stratified, multi-stage cluster sample of a range of national data of students arranged in a
cluster of school and grade level. They took height and weight measurements of each teenager.
Researchers used free-standing stadiometers and electronic scales. Body mass index (BMI) was
also recorded and a data analysis was computed. If the teen was considered underweight for their
height and age, they were considered under nutrition.
Results
Boys were more likely to be underweight and girls were more likely to be overweight.
Boys growth was more stunted than girls but if the females growth was stunted they were more
likely to be overweight. At least half of the teens experienced stunting. It was surprising that
mostly males were found to be underweight and under nutrition, whereas females were more
likely to be overweight. In the U.S., it seems the opposite, that women have the need to be
skinny and have the body of a model.
Discussion
Researchers did gather information that supported the hypothesis of teens being
malnourished. It was found by studying teens at a certain school in Africa, that male teens are
more likely to be underweight and females overweight. They came to the conclusion that more
research would need to be done to confirm actual eating and exercise habits and prove gender

differences in nutrition. They could have done more measurements than just height, weight, and
BMI. They could have studied what each teen ate at school vs what they ate when they got home
from school, or if they ate after school at all. Some kids eat their only meals at school depending
on what their home situations are like. This paper shows the uneven balance of undernutrition
and over nutrition in teens in South Africa in males and females. It was concluded that teen girls
in South Africa are more overweight and males are underweight, if this pattern continues they
could both experience harsh health problems later on in their lives. More studies need to be done
to assess how to improve teens health and include plans at schools to help them out with their
nutritional needs, since a majority of teens seem to go to school in South Africa.

Works Cited
C. C. Jinabhai, M. Taylor, P. Reddy, D. Monyeki, N. Kamabaran, R Omardien and K. R.
Sulliyan. (2007). Sex differences in under and over nutrition among school-going black
teenagers in South Africa: an uneven nutrition trajectory. Tropical Medicine and
International Health 12(8) 944-952.