In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls are an important target group for nutrition interventions due to the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies, the risk of having an early pregnancy and the risk of intergenerational transfer of dis(advantages). However, a dearth of data on the trends, efficacy, and timing (regarding menarche) of intervention impedes progress in the design of targeted policies and interventions that can holistically improve adolescents’ nutrition.
In this study, we found a triple-burden of malnutrition for Ghanaian adolescent girls which includes a continual burden of protein-energy undernutrition, an increasing burden of overnutrition which was associated with cardiovascular risk, and a persistent burden of severe anaemia. In a randomized controlled trial among rural Ghanaian adolescent girls, we found no evidence that the consumption of multiple-micronutrient fortified biscuits (MMB) available in the market improves micronutrient status, cognition, and height, but MMB consumption reduced the prevalence of deficient/low vitamin A status in post-menarcheal girls. Our findings suggest menarche may influence the vitamin A status of girls, but this warrants further investigation. Our findings also suggest boys are equally affected by malnutrition and poor cardiovascular health and should be targeted alongside girls.