Dietary pattern, nutrient intake and growth of adolescent school girls in urban Bangladesh

Faruk Ahmeda1, Momtaz Zareena1, Moududur Rahman Khana1, Cadi Pervin Banua1, Mohammed Nazmul Haqa2 and Alan A Jacksona3 

a1 Institute of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh

a2 Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh

a3 Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, UK


Objective: To investigate the dietary pattern and nutritional status of adolescent girls attending schools in Dhaka city and to examine the association with various social factors.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Girls high schools in Dhaka city.

Subjects: A total of 384 girls, aged from 10 to 16 years, who were students of classes VI to IX of 12 girls high schools in Dhaka city were selected by systematic random sampling. Nutrient intake was assessed using the 24-h recall method and the usual pattern of food intake was examined using a 7-day food frequency questionnaire.

Results: The prevalence of undernutrition among the participants assessed as stunting was 10% overall with younger girls being less stunted (2%) than older girls (16%), whereas 16% were thin with relatively more of the younger girls (21%) being thin than of the older girls (12%). Based on the usual pattern of food intake, a substantial proportion of the girls did not consume eggs (26%), milk (35%) or dark green leafy vegetables (20%). By comparison, larger proportions consumed meat (50%) and fish (65%) at least four times a week. For the intake of energy and protein, only 9 and 17% of the girls, respectively, met the recommended daily allowance (RDA). For nearly 77% of the girls, the intake of fat was less than the recommendation. Intakes less than the RDA were found for iron (77% of the girls), calcium (79%), vitamin A (62%), vitamin C (67%), and riboflavin (96%). Based on the food consumption data, cereals were the major source of energy (57%), thiamin (67%), niacin (63%) and iron (37%). Animal sources supplied 50% of dietary protein. Cooking fats were the principal source of fat (67%) in the diet. Milk was the major contributor for riboflavin and preformed vitamin A (retinol). Leafy vegetables and fruits were the main sources of provitamin A (carotenes). The girls from families with less educated parents were more likely to be thin and short for their age. Those girls from families with lower incomes and less educated parents had a dietary pattern which tended to be poor with regard to egg, milk, meat and fruit, with lower intakes of protein, fat and riboflavin.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that the diets of these girls tended to be inadequate both for macronutrients and micronutrients, with significant health implications. There was also a relationship between the family income and the education of the parents with the nutritional status of the girls.

(Received November 10 1997)

(Accepted March 11 1998)


  • Adolescence;
  • Energy;
  • Height;
  • Weight;
  • Nutrient intake;
  • Protein;
  • Fat;
  • Carbohydrate;
  • Vitamins;
  • Iron


c1 Corresponding author: E-mail