Dietary behavior of school-going adolescents in Bhutan: Findings from the global school-based student health survey in 2016

Nutrition. 2021 Apr 28;90:111290. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2021.111290. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Bhutan is experiencing a dual burden of undernutrition and overnutrition among adolescents. Understanding dietary behavior is vital to designing evidence-based interventions to improve adolescent nutrition and prevent non-communicable diseases in adults. The aim of this study was to assess the pattern of dietary behavior and associated sociodemographic, behavioral, and metabolic risk factors among school-going adolescents in Bhutan.

Methods: The Bhutan Global School-based Student Health Survey 2016 studied students in grades 7 to 11 (N = 7576), sampled from 50 schools, randomly selected based on probability proportional to enrollment size, using a standardized self-administered questionnaire. Consumption of adequate fruits and vegetables (each at least twice daily, or a combination of at least five times daily), high-protein food at least twice weekly) in the past 30 d, no fast food in the past week, and no carbonated/sweetened drinks in the past 30 d were studied. Weighted prevalence of dietary behaviors and adjusted prevalence ratio (95% confidence interval) for factors associated with them were calculated.

Results: Of 5809 students from 13 to 17 y of age comprising 3255 (56%) girls and 3184 (54.8%) day students, 1166 (20.1%) were underweight, 1655 (28.5%) were tobacco users, and 1349 (23.2%) were alcohol users. Adequate fruit and vegetable intake, high protein consumption, not consuming fast foods and carbonated beverages were reported by 29.6%, 31.8%, 9.6%, and 14.9%, respectively. Being a day student, sex, and not reporting health risk behaviors were significantly associated with any healthy dietary behavior.

Conclusion: Healthy eating behavior was low among Bhutanese adolescents. Policies influencing availability, affordability, and acceptability of healthy diets through peer-led, school- and community-based interventions are required to promote adolescent health and prevent non-communicable diseases.

Keywords: Healthy diet; High-protein diet; Non-communicable disease; Social isolation; Suicidal ideation.