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Background of the Study

        Food is defined as any substance which when eaten, absorbed and assimilated by the body produce or supply energy, promote growth and repair tissues or regulate the body metabolism (Ude, 1997). The role of food as a means to maintain good health cannot be over emphasized. Many studies have shown that good food makes a difference in the health and appearance of people. According to Wikipedian (2002) encyclopedia food is any substance, usually composed primarily of carbohydrates, fats, water and/or proteins, that can be eaten or drunk by an animal or human for nutrition or pleasure.

        Food Habit according to Lewin (1999), is  powerful force in determining the food that we eat. Mead and Guthe (2001) defined food habit as a study of individuals in responses to social and cultural pressures, selecting, consumption and utilization of portions of the available food supply. Darnton – Hill and Trus-well (1999) defined food habit as an integral part of a person’s life style and are related to other behavioral patterns, which is a recurrent behaviour not determined by hereditary. Blaxter (1998) noted that food habit as all other behaviour patterns is acquired by frequent repetition or physiological exposure so that they have nearly or completely become involuntary. Gift (2002) noted that they are individual characteristics which once formed tend to control behaviour, because our food habits have emotional connotations which are often resistant to change.

        Food habit can be good or bad. They are good when the kinds and amount of food, which science has proved we need for optimum nutrition is taken. It is proper to take an adequate meal (balanced diet). An adequate meal is a meal that contains all the food nutrients Carbohydrate, protein, minerals, vitamins, fats and oil and water) In the proper proportion for a given person (Ene-Obong. 2002, Okaka, 2001). Poor food habit means that we eat only what we like regardless of what we need and that we have a closed –door policy towards change (Ezema, 2001). Food habits are prominent among the various factors that affect the nutritional intake of a student. Habits are fundamental to man hence, every facet of human life starting from the act of sitting down through demanding, searching, procuring and eventually consumption of food to the complex process of manipulation of various intricate machineries used in industries and commerce involves learning (Ezeokonkwo, 2001).

        Habit is a concept not a thing and thus only known through its manifestations rather than directly (Marystone, 1996).  The idea of food habit is not really new. It has been recognized for sometime now. However, what is needed is the realization of its importance. People are  to recognize the socio cultural aspect of food habit and nutrition (Margaret Mead, 1993).

        Robert, (2005), in a paper on nutrition and human development complained bitterly about the lack of research in behavioral aspect of nutrition which furnishes the background of food habit, their formation vulnerability to change. Food habit he concluded has lead to at least 90% failure in changing dietary patterns in obese adolescents he also revealed from the studies done in Latin American and Africa that cultural patterns have been identified as playing definite roles in producing one major malnutrition disease through kwashiorkor. Control of these malnutrition problems must start from the study and understanding of people on food habit.

The transition from childhood to adulthood is called adolescence, which is a relatively short stage in the life cycle characterized by accelerated physical, biochemical and emotional development (Guthria, 1999). Adolescence according to Bloom (2004) is a time of rapid growth and inconsistent change that varies widely among individuals. In general, the age of 10-14 are characterized by Physical growth and hormonal development, bone, muscle, brain, sexually characteristics, stature, a growing ability to use abstract thought, social and emotional growth, including awareness of others, sense of fairness, social consciousness, sense of purpose, personal identify (who am I) peer bonding, separating from family, and sudden, intense emotions. Adolescence are periods of rapid growth, thus, nutrient requirements are high.

        During this time, most students leave home for hostels, break away from family caring pattern and habits. In this situation they exercise free choice of foods. Usually for the first time free from parental guidance (Oguntona and Oguntina, 1997). This influences the nutritional intake of adolescents. Skinner, White-John, (1985) found adolescents to have eaten disorders, inappropriate food patterns including skipping meals, the practice of food fads crash diets and the use of alcohol and drugs. Adolescent girls are also prone to dietary for fear of becoming fat. Regular weighing will ensure that they are objective about the expectations and concerns. A well balanced varied diet spread over three main meals and small snacks will ensure adequate nutrition. Particular attention should be given to adolescent girls so that they may enter adult hood with adequate iron store so as to avoid the development of anemia during adolescence.

        Adolescence, it is defined as an ambivalence period of human development from the beginning of puberty to the end of the maturation process. Its chronological boundaries vary with inheritance, social status, nutritional status, climate and may include some individual as young as eight and others as old as twenty-five (Encyclopedia of social Science, 1980). The adolescence period which lies some where between childhood and adulthood is said to have two phases. (a) Pubescence (b) Adolescence (McKinney and Munro, 1995). Pubescence is defined as the period of Sexual development which ends with the emergence of the capacity for sexual reproduction characterized by an extremely rapid rate of growth in the body size, especially in weight. The Adolescence is the period when a child’s body changes into that of an adult, among other things an adolescents has increase nutrient needs. It is also a period when teenagers may decide to start dietary and Skipping meals, peer pressure can affect their eating habit resulting to either over eating or under eating habit. Adolescence is a period of rapid physical growth calling for adequate nutrient intake to meet body growth requirement. It is also a period of emotional and psychological changes during which there is a tendency to reject conventional dietary habits. Adolescent nutritional problem are common throughout the country. They have to encounter a series of serious nutritional challenge not only affecting their growth and development but also their livelihood  adults. Yet adolescents remain a largely neglected  and hard to reach population especially girls. Thus it is not surprising that adolescent girl population especially girls who are ‘mother to be’ is if considers as the most important section on which the future of nation depends. (Measham, A.R. 2000 and Rao, S. 1996) The poor nutritional status of girls has important implication in terms of physical work capacity and adverse reproductive outcome. (WHO 1998) Realizing the adversity of the problem several recommendations were made by WHO in order to bring down the nutrition related problems of adolescent population and one of these emphasizes, “Mass information and awareness programme are needed to alert government and communities about the importance of health and nutrition”.  (www.who.int). During adolescence there are many changes taking place as a child’s body turns into that of an adult and their nutritional needs increase. Throughout adolescence a teenager’s iron needs increase significantly. When girls begin to menstruate their dietary iron intake must increase to compensate for the loss of iron in their menstrual blood. At this time boys also need more iron because of their rapid growth and increase in blood volume. Around the age of 19, when growth slows, a female’s iron needs are almost double that of males. Calcium is important throughout the teenage years, necessary for building strong bones and ensuring good health and wellbeing later on in life. It is essential that teenagers include at lest three serves of dairy food a day to maintain an adequate calcium intake.

Adolescence is a period when peer pressure can affect teenage eating behaviour and they may start skipping meals or possibly under-eating or over-eating. Currently around 20 percent of children and adolescents in Nigeria are obese and this is due mainly to a lack of physical activity and high fat diets. Behaviour such as extreme dieting, binge eating and bringing up food on purpose also affect more teenagers than adults and more girls than boys (nine girls to every one boy).Many adolescents see themselves as being too fat, while some, particularly males, see themselves as too thin. About 34 percent of females and 13 percent of males report dieting to lose weight. Anxiety, worry, loneliness and difficulty in managing family relationships are all factors that can lead to a refusal to eat or to excessive eating. Stress and boredom often result in the compulsive eating of certain foods, called “bingeing”. Maintaining good nutrition throughout a child’s teenage years is fundamental for their health and wellbeing. On other hand, Adolescence is the period of growth after the emergence of the capacity for sexual reproduction and may last for 5 to 7 years before final termination of growth. Normally adolescence is a period that covers the period between 12 and 19 years of age, although adolescent may extend from approximately 12 to 17 years of both sexes in the classroom are adolescent together (Beal, 2002). This characteristic rapid change on biological, psychological and social level, has demonstrated high nutritional need. Leverton (2004) states, “At this stage the adolescents get hungry, want to eat, want energy, vigor in whatever they do” This period also witness accelerated biochemical and physiological changes in response to hormonal changes. The body weight of 30kg represents a critical body composition of 10 percent body fat, which usually accurate 91/2  years of age. Later, the body weight reaches about 47kg and fat stores double 20 to 24 percent. Menarche does not occur until body fat, represent at least 17 percent body weight. Ovulation causes any time it falls below this level. A body composition of 22percentage body fat is required to maintain regular ovulation (Guthria, 1999). The adolescents are regarded as a group of people who are nutritionally at risk. This is because their nutritional needs are increased at this time because of the rapid rate of growth and alteration in body composition and maturation (Tanner, 1996).

Statement of the problem

        Obviously, it has been observed that there has been many cases of malnutrition, starvation and poor nutrient intake among the Adolescents. Unfortunately, this was observed to increase greatly during examination period (FAO/WHO 2000). This can be applied in the cause of this study. The rigorous chain of activities in which the adolescents students find themselves has led some into starving themselves. The reason being ‘time factor’ youths who insist on having their meals end up sometimes not choosing the right type of food. Therefore because of the cost of food and time wasted for feeding, some adolescents  prefer to finish it all in one meal (Ene-Obong, 2001). This has led them to taking more carbohydrate foods and paying less attention to protein and other nutrients. Malnutrition has a negative effect on the school performance of adolescent students, also inadequate diet could keep children hungry, resulting in truancy, restlessness and in attentiveness in classroom. Severe malnutrition can reduce mental stability because mental achievements are distinctly impaired mostly through reduced memory and restlessness though basic intelligence are not altered (WHO, 1995).

The researcher was worried about the increase report on malnutrition, starvatition, and poor nutrient intake resulting to several sickness such as retarded growth, loss of appetite and tiredness, inflammation, headache, anaemia, scurvy, diarrhea, irritability and muscular spasm among others. This study was conducted to reveal the need education, good food habit, vitality of minerals and vitamin, and encouragement of eating adequate[balanced] diets to improve peoples state of health and reduce several nutritional problems. If this study was not done, the problem of malnutrition, poor nutrient intake will continue to abound there by can result to severe illness which can lead to death. In Oba Community, the assessment of food habits of adolescents students has not been properly carried out. This is due to the fact that among all these adolescents in the community, there are constraints behind their food habit and their body nutrient requirement people lack information’s on the need to develop good food habits that has resulted to nutritional problem  such as over weight which may persist into adult hood (Leverton, 2004). These nutritional diseases and problem hinder students achievement and progress in Oba. Optimum nutrition is therefore crucial at his stage of life to enable youth achieve their potential youth daily life. It is therefore necessary to assess the adolescents food habits and make recommendations that will improve food intake among youths in Oba community.

Purpose of the Study

        The main purpose of this study is to assess the food habit of adolescents students in Oba community, Idemili south local government Area of Anambra State. Specifically, the study will;

  1. Determine the meal requirement of the adolescents students
  2. Determine the factors influencing their food habits.
  3. Identify factors that determine their choice of food.

Significance of the Study

        The study will be of immense help to health practioners, physicians, nurse, counsellors and other people in this field.

 To the physicians and nurse, the knowledge of good food habit will help in making time and specifying food menu for proper nutrition required by their body.  To the counselors, since some of the counselors are nutrition experts or dieticians, through the knowledge they obtain in nutritional study they guide their clients with the appropriate food diet to be taken. The study will be of great benefit to the youths, and students because it will provide information for  further research study. It will also help them to develop ideas and interest on good sense of food selection and eating habit.

Research Questions

The following research questions will be answered by the study  

  1. What are the meal requirement of Adolescents?
  2. What are the factors influencing the adolescents food habit?
  3. What are the factors that determine their choice of food?

Scope of the Study

        Apparently, this study was limited to only the Adolescents students in Oba community in Idemili-South Local Government Area of Anambra State on the food habits of adolescents. It covered the meal requirement of the adolescents,  boys and girls, factors that influence the food habits of the adolescents and constraints on the adolescents choice of food.

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