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Keywords:

  • dieting;
  • food intake;
  • nutrient intake;
  • teenagers

A group of female teenage dieters was isolated from a larger national dietary survey of teenagers at 16–17 years of age. The dieting group included girls who both claimed to be dieting and who had energy intakes which were considered appropriate for weight loss, based on calculated reported energy intake to estimated basal metabolic rate cut-off points. The nutrient intakes and food choices of dieters (n= 204) were compared with a similar sample of non-dieters (n= 226) from the same cohort group. The mean reported energy intake of the dieters was 1604 kcals/day compared to 2460 kcals/day amongst non-dieters. The intakes of all the macronutrients in g/day were considerably lower amongst dieters, allowing for differences in region and social class, but when expressed as a percentage of energy intake, dieters had significantly lower intakes of fat and higher intakes of protein and intrinsic sugars, milk sugars and starch. No differences were seen in the percentage of energy provided by non-milk extrinsic sugars between the two groups. The intake of all micronutrients was substantially lower amongst dieters, allowing for regional and social class differences, and more than twice as many dieters as non-dieters failed to achieve the reference nutrient intake (RNI) for retinol equivalents, thiamin, riboflavin, folates, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, zinc, copper and selenium. Reported food intake data for the two groups suggest that dieters consumed smaller quantities of most foods, although intakes of items associated with dieting such as low calorie soft drinks, low fat spread, skimmed milk, cottage cheese, yoghurt, salad vegetables, fruit and fruit juice were consumed in equal or greater amounts by dieters. Teenage dieters should be encouraged to include more nutrient-dense foods in their diets such as fortified breakfast cereals and low fat dairy products in order to obtain sufficient micronutrients from a lower calorie intake.