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Andrea Bayles Nutritional Therapist
ND, Dip Nutr, Dip Herb, MBANT, MURHP, MCNHC

Nutrition for Teenage Boys

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I was recently interviewed about the impact of nutrition on the health of teenage boys and so this month I would like to share that interview with you and hope that some of the nutritional information is useful.

How important is good nutrition for the growing teenage boy?

Good nutrition is essential for teens as they have entered a stage at adolescence where their lean body mass increases by approx 35kg over a 3 year period. It is their second largest growth spurt during childhood, the first being the first year of life. Of particular importance are protein and certain vitamins and minerals. Protein is essential for cell growth, cell renewal and energy. Teenage boys vary in their levels of activity, some being sporty and active and therefore requiring larger amounts of protein and carbohydrates for energy requirements however, the trend today is that many teens are less active and therefore there nutrient requirements will be reduced.

How do nutritional requirements differ between men and teenage boys?

Teen boys that are active require a huge amount of calories and many families report that they find it difficult to keep up with the amount of food a teenager will consume during the course of the day. This is of course the body's way of telling them they need the calories for growth and maturation.

Teenage boys aged between 14-18years have a DRI of 3150 kcals per day which drops to around 3000 from 19-30 years of age. A teen boy should eat a minimum of 52g of protein per day and 130g carbohydrate. Men should consume 56g protein per day and the same amount of cho's are recommended. This is sourced from US DRI,s -

The difference is minimal but highlights the needs of young teens requiring nearly as much protein as men and more calories than men due to huge growth spurt.

What are the key nutrients or food groups that will optimise growth and health for the teenage boy?

Protein is the major source of nutrition that provides the body with fuels for growth and without adequate intakes of protein, growth and development would be affected as well as sexual maturation.

Carbohydrates should account for approx 50% of the daily intake of foods and this can be sourced from vegetables, fruit and grains.

Fat is also essential to cell development, essential fats are required for normal growth and development and should represent about 30% of the daily intake (10% saturated fats).

Calcium is an essential mineral required for healthy growth and formation of bones and teenage boys will attain 45% lean bone mass during this period of growth. Their daily requirement of calcium is 1300mg and many young boys are deficient in their intake. Calcium is sourced from dairy produce and green vegetables, as well as fish and meat but due to th rise in fizzy drink consumption, dietary intakes are reportedly low.

Zinc is another, often overlooked mineral that is essential for teen boys. Zinc promotes protein metabolism, sexual maturation, and hormone production. Low levels are often found in teens due to inadequate diets. Sources of zinc are red meat, shellfish and whole grains which is why many are deficient

Vit A is needed for growth, reproduction and immunity as well as maintaining eye health.

Vit C is also needed for collagen production making it an essential nutrient during growth and development.

What should be avoided?

As a nutritionist my advice would be to avoid eating high amounts of sugary, sweet foods to increase energy levels. High sugar, high fat foods will lead to obesity and possibly Diabetes if diets are not adapted and improved. Eating refined carbohydrates, such as cakes, donuts,pastries, biscuits, etc are not nutrient rich and will not provide the essential nutrients needed for boys at this time o f growth and development. Drinks and sodas high in sugar and sweeteners are also to be avoided or drunk in moderation.

How big a problem do you think nutrition is ?

I think that poor nutrition is highly prevalent in teens especially boys who have a different attitude to food at this age. Many eat a high fat, high sugar diet, putting them at risk of Diabetes and metabolic diseases later in life. Eating habits are formed during these important yeRs and will often form the way they eat during the course of their life. Certainly young people are exposed to a range of fast-food and junk food and it is cheap to eat too which encourages young people to buy this kind of food.

I would imagine that if the country were to conduct a study on the nutrient intakes of young teen boys, the results would be quite staggering as I believe that essential nutrients would be deficient from a good percentage of young people. Social circumstances, chronic illness, differing levels of activity will all contribute to inadequate levels of nutrition

Do you think enough is done in schools

I am unaware of the government providing education on nutritional and dietary recommendation for teenagers. As a mother of two teenage boys, there is very little in terms of nutritional input. Interestingly, at my 15yr old's school, he has been made to consume school dinners but now in his final year of education and a time for GCSE's, he is all owed to go out of school to purchase his lunch - so right now when nutritional health is very important for brain function, attention etc, he is surviving on inadequate soda Or energy drinks and a variety of highly refined carbohydrates and sweets as a preferred source of fuel!

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