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Open Access Research

Growth and weight status in treatment-naïve 12-16 year old adolescents with Alcohol Use Disorders in Cape Town, South Africa

Celeste E Naude1*, Marjanne Senekal2, Ria Laubscher3, Paul D Carey4 and George Fein5

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Human Nutrition, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

2 Division of Human Nutrition, University of Cape Town, South Africa

3 Biostatistics Unit, Medical Research Council of South Africa, South Africa

4 Department of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

5 Neurobehavioral Research Inc, Hawaii

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Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:87  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-87

Published: 23 August 2011

Abstract

Background

Heavy alcohol consumption during adolescence has many known harmful health and social consequences and is strongly associated with numerous health risk behaviours. The consequences of heavy alcohol use during adolescence on nutritional status, specifically growth and weight status are largely unknown at this time.

Methods

Substance use, anthropometric indices of growth and weight, dietary energy intake and physical activity in heavy drinking adolescents (meeting DSM-IV criteria for alcohol use disorders) and matched light/non-drinking control adolescents were assessed.

Results

Lifetime alcohol dose, measured in standard drinks of alcohol, was orders of magnitude higher in adolescents with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) compared to controls. The AUDs group was selected to represent relatively 'pure' AUDs, with minimal other drug use and no psychiatric diagnoses. The growth and weight status of adolescents with AUDs were generally comparable to that of controls, and is in line with the growth and weight status of the South African adolescent population. A greater proportion of overweight/obese females was found in both groups, with this percentage tending to be greater, although not significantly so, in the AUDs group. Adolescent females with AUDs had increased odds of being overweight/obese compared to controls, after adjustment for smoking, physical activity and energy intake.

Conclusion

Anthropometric indices of growth and weight status of participants in the Control and AUD groups were generally comparable. Female adolescents with AUDs may have an increased risk of being overweight/obese compared to adolescent females without AUDs. The presence of an AUD in our adolescent sample was associated with higher energy intake. Longitudinal studies are needed to elucidate the effects of heavy alcohol use on energy balance, growth and weight status in adolescents as they age. Nonetheless, the current study contributes to our understanding of the impacts of heavy alcohol consumption on important aspects of adolescent development.

Keywords:
adolescent; alcohol; growth; weight; anthropometry; energy intake