Pubertal and Adolescent Changes

Adolescence is the time of life that marks the transition between childhood and the adult state. It is a period of great changes in a short period of time, with an increase in growth rate associated with hormonal, cognitive and emotional changes. All this suggests different nutritional needs.

At what age does puberty begin?

The onset of puberty does not have exact limits. We classify its onset as very early, early, intermediate, late and very late maturers.

The pediatric endocrinologist establishes the onset of puberty:

  • In girls: with palpation of the mammary bud.
  • In boys: with the evaluation by means of an orchidometer of the beginning of the increase of the testicular volume to 4 ml.

Very early maturing girls start the development of the mammary bud from the age of 8 years, while very early maturing boys start the increase in testicular volume from the age of 9 years.

The classification of puberty into five groups of maturers facilitates the pediatric endocrinologist to follow the appropriate curve auxologically, being able to check the variations in the growth rate according to the maturity group.

Pubertal growth starts in girls at 8-13 years of age and in boys at 10-15 years of age.

Why is dietary care important during puberty and what nutrients are important at this stage?

Changes in body composition during adolescence (the second fastest growing stage of life) have implications for energy needs, iron, protein and nutrients involved in tissue synthesis (calcium, vitamins). Nutritional requirements will vary according to gender, body composition, physical activity and maturity.

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During puberty, eating habits change and the influence of the food industry and the media alter the way our adolescents eat. It is our obligation to demand the regularization of all food marketing.

It is important to teach our adolescents to consume healthy products even at meals away from home and on special occasions. We recommend insisting on maintaining a satisfactory group or individual sports activity and adapting the intake to the effort made.