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J Adolesc Health. 1996 Jul;19(1):68-75.

Does puberty alter dietary habits in adolescents living in a western society?

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  • 1WHO Collaborating Center for Osteoporosis and Bone Disease, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.



Puberty is considered to be a period with major behavioral changes and alterations in lifestyle. It is also assumed that important modifications in food habits would occur during pubertal maturation, particularly in affluent societies. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a prospective survey in 193 adolescents (95 females and 98 males) aged 9-19 years.


Food intake was assessed using a 5-day dietary diary method with weighing of most food intakes. Diaries were analyzed for macronutrient consumption with a nutrition determination software integrating food composition tables and 103 local food items. The stage of puberty or sexual maturity was clinically assessed and rated from stage P1 (prepubertal) to P5 (adult).


The total energy intake which was within the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) was significantly influenced by both pubertal maturation and sex when expressed in absolute terms, but by pubertal stages only when adjusted per kilogram of body weight. Compared with RDA, the macronutrient distribution of the total energy intake showed an excessive quantity of fat (especially saturated fatty acids) and an insufficient amount of carbohydrate-rich fibers. The intakes of proteins, of which two out of three came from animal sources, were above RDA. Overall, these inadequacies in the macronutrient intake distribution were constant throughout pubertal maturation.


This study indicates that the type of diet which has been linked with several chronic diseases in adults living in developed countries already prevails before pubertal maturation. This dietary pattern changes marginally during pubertal development. Therefore, our investigation does not support the notion that "bad" food habits become particularly worse during the years of pubertal maturation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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