Most common problems (14-18 years)


Genetic predisposition as well as the presence of inadequate eating habits and infrequent physical activity all play an important part in the development of obesity. An unbalanced diet (high in fats, cakes, pastries, etc. and low in fruit, vegetables and legumes), associated with almost no physical activity, as affects the majority of teenagers, means that there is an imbalance in the energy intake and the energy expended. This excess of unused calories accumulates as fat, and if the process continues, excess weight and obesity will appear over time.

Being overweight or obese leads to the risk of chronic illnesses beginning in childhood that may not become apparent until adolescence and adulthood.

At this stage, the early onset risk factors for cardiovascular disease are seen, for example: hyperlipidemia, diabetes, hypertension, etc., which could develop into serious pathologies in adulthood.

Eating disorders

Although the causes of eating disorders are not well understood, it appears that pubertal changes in body shape and weight predispose young women to develop unhealthy attitudes towards food. The most well-known are bulimia and anorexia nervosa, but there are others such as binging, bigorexia, orthorexia, pica, etc.

Miracle diets

As a consequence of the current obsession to lose weight and achieve the “ideal body weight”, every year, especially before the summer, (“Operation Bikini”), “miracle diets” are advertised, often using celebrities, that promise a solution to the problem of excess weight quickly and without any effort at all. In general, these diets have no scientific basis, and most of them are a waste of money. There are a great many of them, but in the long term, they all have one thing in common, they are harmful to health (incorrect nutritional input), they don´t so much correct bad habits as encourage them, and they produce discouragement and frustration, and weight is quickly regained shortly afterwards. In fact these mistaken ways of eating, and repeatedly going on such diets, predisposes people to developing bad eating habits.

Lower physical activity

Unlike in childhood, there are greater problems promoting physical activity in adolescence. Whilst childhood interests centre on children´s games and physical activities, adolescents lose interest in in games and fill their spare time with other activities (going out with friends, chatting, etc.). They also complain that they have too little spare time owing to more school work. At this time, physical activity should be taught and encouraged as a good alternative to other entertainment, a good way to feel good and make friends. As far as best of use of time is concerned, it´s important to organise a proper timetable.  To do this, families and educators should encourage more time being spent on physical activity, above all for girls, as studies show a drop in the level of physical activity during adolescence.

1- Food during adolescence should promote proper growth and development, and encourage a healthy lifestyle, to prevent nutritional disorders.
2- The significant increase in non-fatty tissue (bone and muscle), which almost doubles during the pubertal growth spurt, causes an increase in the requirement  for energy, protein, and certain vitamins and minerals, greater than at any other stage of life.
3- Apart from chronological age, we must also take into account sex, size and growth rate: boys gain weight more quickly, mainly in muscle and skeletal mass, whilst girls tend to put on fat. Also, the start of the pubertal growth spurt and the period of maximum growth rate can vary greatly, so it´s important to avoid excessive calories in those adolescents whose development begins later.
4- In addition to higher energy and protein needs, the requirement for certain minerals such as iron and calcium is also higher.  Zinc is essential for growth and sexual maturation. Diets poor in animal protein struggle to meet the daily requirements, estimated to be around 15 mg per day.  Teenagers who follow a vegetarian diet are more exposed to deficiencies in this oligo element, which is why it´s advisable to include foods in the diet which are rich in zinc: peanuts, wholegrain and cheese.
5- Vitamin requirements are also higher, especially those of the vitamins B complex. The best way to avoid any deficit is to eat a varied and balanced diet, eating foods from all the food groups in sufficient quantities; this will avoid the necessity of taking synthetically prepared vitamins.
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