Nutritional status and dietary habits of schoolchildren in Croatia

The aim of the present study was to assess the nutritional status of the population of schoolchildren in Croatia, with special emphasis on obesity prevalence and nutritional habits. Sample and methods: Cross sectional nutritional surveys were provided between 1997 and 2002 in selected schools from ten counties on a random selected sample of 4.924 schoolchildren, both genders, aged between 7-15 years. The nutritional status of schoolchildren was assessed on the basis of their anthropometric measurements of body height and weight and the following anthropometric indices: height-for-age, weight-for-height, and body mass index by age and sex with comparisons being drawn to the international NCHS/WHO reference values. In the sub-sample of 648 pupils 24 hour recall was preformed for dietary assessment. Results: According to the weight-for-height z-score distribution 69.5% of children are well nourished, only 0.9 being malnourished. In a similar manner as in the reference population, in the z-score range between –2 and -1, or thinness were registered in 13.4% of the pupils. On the other hand, increased body weight was found in 11%, and obesity in 5.2% of the children. Percentile distribution of body mass index (BMI) had similar characteristic. BMI between the 85-95 percentile, which is classified as overweight, was determined in 11.2% of examined boys and 9.8% girls and obesity in 5.7% boys and 5.4% girls with BMI values over the 95 percentile. When compared with the reference population, the height-for-age values were higher on average in about 15% of the population of schoolchildren. There were notable interregional differences, especially between Dalmatia and the continental region. The average daily intake of energy, or the total amount of food and basic nutrients was satisfactory, but intakes of vitamin A, calcium and iron were below the levels recommended for school-age children. Conclusion: The results indicate a slightly growing trend of obesity prevalence among schoolchildren and the problem of inadeqate nutrition. While this is partly explainable by the present socioeconomic conditions affecting the buying power of the family and availability of certain foods, it can also be largely explained by poor dietary habits and lifestyle.
Category: Original scientific paper
Volume: Vol. 48, No 1, january - march 2004
Authors: K. Antonić-Degač, A. Kaić-Rak, E. Mesaroš-Kanjski, Z. Petrović, K. Capak
Reference work: