Ten2Twenty: adolescent nutrition

Adolescents make up twelve per cent of the population in industrialised countries, compared with nineteen per cent in low- and middle-income countries. Adolescence is a period characterised by rapid growth and development reflected in high nutrient demands. As female adolescents are the bearers of the next generation, the main focus in current nutrition research is on girls.


Early menarche (before eleven years of age) increases the risk of abdominal type obesity, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, cardiovascular risk, coronary heart disease, and increased cancer mortality (especially breast cancer). Women with earlier menarche reach a shorter height compared to women who have menarche at a later stage. Late menarche (above sixteen years of age) increases the risk of osteoporosis, adolescent depression, and social anxiety symptoms.

It is generally recognised that optimising the nutrition status of adolescent girls is essential for their own health as well as, in case of teenage pregnancy, that of their offspring. The period of (pre-)adolescence may offer a unique second window of opportunity to, for example, remedy (nutrition-related) problems that occurred earlier in life as well as to foster a healthy transition from childhood to adulthood setting the stage for preventing or delaying adult-onset diet-related illnesses. There are many knowledge gaps in adolescent nutrition, however.

Aim of the project

The overall Ten2Twenty project is conducted in a range of low- and middle-income countries and aims to improve understanding of the interactions and interrelationships between nutritional, sociological and economic trajectories of optimizing adolescent nutrition for better health, pregnancy and birth outcome.

Key publications

More research: International maternal and child nutrition