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Nutrition Awareness for Adolescents

Unhealthy eating patterns and obesity have long become serious problems among American adolescents. Apart from physical discomfort, obesity has a range of health implications. Adolescence is a critical period in any persons life. This is when most people establish eating patterns that influence their future eating habits and health status. Fast food consumption is one of the most researched and criticized unhealthy eating habits that starts in the childhood and continues into adolescence and adulthood. Adolescent fast food consumption is rising, which is rather disturbing: Nearly one half of the adolescents in California survey reported some fast food the previous day, and 66% of the middle-school children in a Massachusetts study ate fast food at least once in the previous 7 days (Sebastian, Enns, & Goldman, 2009, p. 226). Another study has discovered that 35% of adolescents eat in fast food restaurants six or more times per week. At this, 72% of adolescents prefer taste to labeling when selecting food (Elbel, Gyamfi, & Kersh, 2011). For this reason, raising the American adolescents nutrition awareness is simply critical for health promotion and disease prevention. The Food Guide Pyramid developed by the United States Department of Agriculture is currently one of the most widely used guidelines that can alter the American adolescents eating habits and improve their future health status.

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The Food Guide Pyramid as the Most Current Guideline on Nutrition Awareness among the US Adolescents

The Food Guide Pyramid was introduced in 1992 and has gone through several updates since then. This guide outlined five major food groups [... that] included bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group; the vegetable group; the fruit group; the dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) group; and the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts group (Totapally & Raszynsky, 2013, p. 179). The guide also included some recommendations as for food choice and moderation as well as warned about the risk of chronic diseases that the consumption of certain food leads to. In 2005, the Food Guide Pyramid was updated. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also added a category for oils and emphasized that physical activity was no less crucial for health promotion and weight management than proper food choices (Totapally & Raszynsky, 2013). The Food Guide Pyramid was also renamed MyPyramid Food Guide (commonly referred to as MyPyramid), which soon became quite popular among the American adults and adolescents. Although MyPyramid was later criticized for being too confusing and replaced by more general MyPlate, it still remains a more detailed guide for food selection and healthy way of life than any of its improvements.

Justification of Choosing the Guideline

Several factors have contributed to choosing the Food Guide Pyramid as a guideline for this report. Federal Dietary Guidelines have become popular among the US population together with the awareness that obesity has long-term health implications and has to be urgently dealt with. A study carried out by Wright & Wang (2011) has shown that 83.8% of Americans have heard about federal dietary guidance. At this, 80.6% of respondents named the Food Guide Pyramid as the guidance they are familiar with most of all. Such popularity of the program increases the likelihood of the American adolescents keeping to the recommendations outlined in this food guidance system. As it has already been mentioned, fast food consumption is the most common unhealthy eating habit among the Americans. No less disturbing is the fact that there are certain negative associations between the adolescents meeting the recommendations outlined by the Food Guide Pyramid and the fast food consumption. Thus, adolescents consuming fast food are less likely to meet recommendations for fruit, milk, and vegetables intakes as outlined by MyPyramid (Sebastian et al., 2009). Such awareness of discrepancies between MyPyramid recommendations and adolescents fast food eating habits can help to design strategies for improving their diets. This all contributed to choosing MyPyramid as the guideline for this report.

Application to Clinical Practice

It is rarely that adolescents take care about their health, let alone their awareness of micronutrients that the food they consume contains. With regard to this, it is vital to attract their attention to such guidelines as MyPyramid which enhances the users understanding of food consumption as a process of delivering micronutrients into human organism for its proper functioning. Absence of certain micronutrients in the diet can lead to serious health problems that can further grow into chronic illnesses. Thus, research performed by Adamson, Daratha, and Bindler (2010) demonstrates that a high number of adolescents lack recommended amounts of vitamins A, B-complex, C, D, folate, and calcium intake due to improper diets. Each of these micronutrients plays an important role in the adolescents healthy growth and immune function. Lack of them in the human body can lead to a range of health problems. For example, low vitamin D intake is associated with increased risk for hypertension, hyperglycemia, and metabolic syndrome [... while] low levels of folate are problematic in female youth because of its relationship with neural tube defects and other problems in fetuses (Adamson et al., 2010, p. 163). MyPyramid can be quite helpful in balancing the micronutrients intake because it allows evaluating the total diet. The guide makes it clear that appropriate diet can help to supply the human body with all essential nutrients. It identifies types and amounts of food that is necessary to be consumed daily to meet the persons nutrient needs. In this way, MyPyramid can help adolescents to organize their diets and to avoid negative health implications, serving as a great method of disease prevention and health promotion.

A Brief Case Study on Nutrition Awareness for Adolescents

One of the articles reviewed for this report is a valuable study of the university students dietary patterns and their effect on the students health. Manwa (2013) discovers that most of students lack nutritional knowledge and are likely to suffer from the diseases related to micronutrient deficiency. The study reveals that 90% of all the students who visited the clinic had clinical signs of malnutrition of more than five nutrients (Manwa, 2013, p. 194). At this, the remaining 10% also have certain micronutrient deficiency. This testified to the fact that the participants did not get all necessary nutrients with their diet. According to the researcher, this micronutrient deficiency was a result of the students lack of nutritional knowledge. As a result, the students developed nutrition-related disorders and, without correction of their diet, were likely to develop more serious diseases. This shows that adolescents lack sufficient knowledge about nutritional value of the food they consume and need such food guides as MyPyramid to promote a healthy way of life and prevent possible diseases.

Nutrition Awareness: Caring for Patients

It is important for a healthcare professional dealing with adolescents to pay special attention to the patients with metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure. No less attention should be paid to the patients without excessive weight because they are at risk of having malnutrition due to an unhealthy diet. Among the most common signs of the lack of vitamins and minerals are scaling nostrils, red lips, slickness and redness of the tongue, pale white eye, swelling and sponginess of gums, bleeding gums and skin dryness (Manwa, 2013, p. 195). Necessary tests should be performed to reveal the problem that causes these signs. However, the task of the healthcare professional is not only to treat such patients but also to inform them about the effect of dietary patterns on human health as well as to provide recommendations regarding correction of the diet.

The Level of Evidence and the Use of the Guideline in Practice

Five of six sources used for this report contain good-quality patient-oriented Level-1 evidence. Only one source is of Level-3 quality because it presents disease-oriented evidence. However, it is also quite valuable for the research because it gives all the necessary information about the guideline discussed in the report. The analysis of all the sources used helps to understand how the guideline under consideration can be applied to practice. It is worth noting that MyPyramid is being used by thousands of Americans, but it is less popular among the adolescents, who do not pay enough attention to their dietary patterns. For this reason, school administration should cooperate with local hospitals and distribute the information about MyPyramid and its use among the students. School nurses should be trained to instruct students on their nutritional needs. This can be done through introducing the basic principles of MyPyramid and showing how it can be used in practice. In addition, catering departments in schools and educational institutions should provide information about the nutritional value of the food they serve. Finally, parents should also be encouraged to take part in educating their children about MyPyramid use and improving their eating habits.

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In conclusion, raising nutritional awareness of American adolescents should be one of the primary tasks of healthcare professionals and school administration. A great number of adolescents consume unhealthy food and are even unaware of its effect on their health. The use of MyPyramid can give them valuable information about major food groups and draw their attention to the necessity of physical activity. This will help adolescents to acquire healthy eating habits that will continue into their adulthood. The problem of obesity and related health issues will become less widespread than it is at present. In this way, MyPyramid can make an enormous contribution to health promotion and disease prevention not only among adolescents but among the Americans of other ages as well.

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