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Nutrición Hospitalaria

versión On-line ISSN 1699-5198versión impresa ISSN 0212-1611

Nutr. Hosp. vol.24 no.6 Madrid nov./dic. 2009




Weight concerns and weight reduction practices of Portuguese adolescents

Preocupaciones por el peso y prácticas de reducción del peso en adolescentes portugueses






We assessed weight management practices in 266 boys and 312 girls (mean age 15.6 ± 1.3 years) from two schools in Lisbon. Body image was assessed using the method of Stunkard and participants were classified as desiring to loose weight if the ideal image was thinner than the current. Other data collected included measured height and weight, current smoking status, participation in extracurricular sports, the number of meals consumed the day before and meal skipping. No difference in the prevalence of overweight/obesity were found between genders (22.1% in girls and 19.5% in boys, p > 0.05). Conversely, willingness to lose weight was significantly higher in girls (48% vs 23% in boys, p < 0.001) and similar findings were observed after stratifying for BMI categories. Girls willing to lose weight smoked and skipped meals more frequently, whereas no differences were found for extracurricular sport activities. Boys willing to loose weight skipped meals more frequently and reported lower extracurricular sport activities, whereas no differences were found for smoking. Participants wishing to lose weight also reported a lower number of meals the day before. The highest prevalence of willingness to loose weight among girls might be related to media pressure that perpetuates the ideal of thinness and a negative stigma associated with being overweight in girls1. Our results are also in agreement with a previous study suggesting that adolescents desiring to lose weight engage in several unhealthy behaviours such as meal skipping and smoking2. Actually, meal skipping does not lead to weight loss3, and the increased smoking prevalence might be related to the widespread perception that smoking contributes to weight loss4. Still, of particular concern was the fact that participants wishing to lose weight actually tended to practice less sports, one of the major determinants of weight loss5. We conclude that weight reduction pratices among Portuguese adolescents are inadequate and that educational measures are urgently needed in order to curb such unhealthy behaviours.



G. Marcelino1,2, J. M. Oliveira3, P. Ravasco4 and P. Marques-Vidal1,5
1Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine. University of Lausanne. Lausanne. Switzerland.
2Faculdade de Medicina de Lisboa. Lisboa. Portugal.
3Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias. Lisboa. Portugal.
4Unidade de Nutrição e Metabolismo. Instituto de Medicina Molecular da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa. Lisboa. Portugal.
5Cardiomet. Lausanne. Switzerland.



1. Field AE, Austin SB, Camargo CA, Jr, Taylor CB, Striegel-Moore RH, Loud KJ et al. Exposure to the mass media, body shape concerns, and use of supplements to improve weight and shape among male and female adolescents. Pediatrics 2005; 116 (2): e214-e220.        [ Links ]

2. Lowry R, Galuska DA, Fulton JE, Wechsler H, Kann L. Weight management goals and practices among U.S. high school students: associations with physical activity, diet, and smoking. J Adolesc Health 2002; 31 (2): 133-44.        [ Links ]

3. Engler L. The Importance of All Meals. NSCA's Performance Training Journal 2008; 4 (6): 10-1.        [ Links ]

4. Bean MK, Mitchell KS, Speizer IS, Wilson DB, Smith BN, Fries EA. Rural adolescent attitudes toward smoking and weight loss: relationship to smoking status. Nicotine Tob Res 2008; 10 (2): 279-86.        [ Links ]

5. Shaw K, Gennat H, O'Rourke P, Del Mar C. Exercise for overweight or obesity. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006; (4):CD003817.        [ Links ]



Pedro Marques-Vidal.
Institut Universitaire de Médecine Sociale et Preventive.
Rue du Bugnon, 17.
CH-1005 Lausanne, Switzerland.

Recibido: 27-V-2009.
Aceptado: 4-VIII-2009.

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