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© Borgis - New Medicine 1/2004, s. 8-11
Wojciech Chalcarz, Monika Radzimirska-Graczyk, Marek J. Janczewski
General Nutritional Knowledge in Children and Adolescents Practicing Fencing
Department of Food and Nutrition University School of Physical Education, Poznań, Poland
Head of Department: Prof. Wojciech Chalcarz, MD, PhD
Summary
Aim. The purpose of this paper was an assessment of general nutritional knowledge among children and adolescents practicing fencing. The research examined knowledge related to rich sources of nutrients, their roles in body functioning, composition of diet and its assessment, and nutrition in children and adolescents.
Material and method. A population of 141 children and adolescents practicing fencing from Primary School No 42 and Secondary School No 40 in Poznań was targeted. The statistical analysis was carried out by means of the SPPS 11.5 PL for Windows computer programme using the independence test in the contingency tables. In total, 35 different factors that could influence nutritional knowledge were analysed. To preserve clarity of the results the answers are presented as a 25% grid – i.e. 0-25.0%, 25.1%-50.0%, 50.1%-75.0% and 75.1-100.0%.
Results. From the 35 analysed factors the need to acquire general nutritional knowledge had the greatest impact on the answers. Nutritional knowledge among the population studied was generally poor. Most of the correct answers were given by those who had the need to acquire general nutritional knowledge and the least by those who did not know whether they had such a need.
Conclusion. The results show a need to improve general nutritional knowledge among the population studied, which should be addressed within the curriculum.
INTRODUCTION
One of the most important issues of the science of nutrition today is an assessment of nutritional knowledge and dietary habits of various groups of people, particularly children and adolescents practicing sport. Based on this a comprehensive educational nutritional programmes can be constructed and implemented. Such education would enable an individual to make a conscious choice of a healthy diet.
A sound diet minimises the morbidity of metabolic illnesses, improves both physical and psychological well-being, optimises physical and mental work ability. Good nutrition is particularly important in children and adolescents practicing sport. It is generally acknowledged that nutritional knowledge is reflected in dietary behaviour (1, 2, 3, 4).
This study is a part of ongoing research in our Department relating to the nutritional knowledge of various groups of people in Poland (5, 6, 7, 8, 9).
The purpose of this paper was an assessment of general nutritional knowledge among children and adolescents practicing fencing. The research concentrated on knowledge related to sources of nutrients, their roles in body functioning, assessment of diet, and principles of nutrition in children and adolescents.
MATERIAL AND METHOD
A population of 141 children and adolescents practicing fencing from Primary School No 42 and Secondary School No 40 in Poznań was targeted. Approval for this research was obtained from the Bioethics Committee of the Medical Academy in Poznań. The data collection took place in June 2002.
The statistical analysis was carried out by means of the SPPS 11.5 PL for Windows computer programme, using the independence test in the contingency tables. In total, 35 different factors that could influence general nutritional knowledge were analysed. To preserve clarity of the results the answers were presented as a 25% grid – i.e. 0-25%, 25.1%-50%, 50.1%-75%, and 75.1-100%.
RESULTS
1. Socio-demographic characteristics of the population studied
In the total of 141 subjects there were 57.4% of boys and 42.6% of girls.
55.3% of the athletes were between 10-13 years old, and 44.7% between 13-16 years of age, which was consistent with the kind of school they were attending.
3 students (2.1%) gained the maximum – ´excellent´ results in their subjects in the previous semester, and 32 students (22.7%) ´very good´. There were 36.2% of students with ´good´ results, and 29.8% with ´sufficient´ (pass). The category of ´conditional promotion to the semester´ was found in 11 students (7.8%) and only one student was not promoted to commence next semester.
Within the studied population, 110 individuals (78%) had practiced fencing for at least 3 years. Analysis of parental educational status showed the following: 22.7% of mothers and 23.4% of fathers had a higher (university) education; 47.0% of mothers and 37.5% of fathers were high school graduates (secondary education). Vocational education was found in 28.8% of mothers and 36.7% of fathers. The smallest percentage of mothers and fathers had primary school education only 1.4% and 2.3% respectively.
2. Impact of the analysed factors on nutritional knowledge of the population studied
The need to acquire general nutritional knowledge had the strongest impact on the answers. This dependency was statistically significant. Further analysis was carried out in relation to this factor.
The second factor which also had a strong impact, but not as strong as the first one, was the need to acquire knowledge of nutrition in sport.
3. Rich sources of nutrients
The summary of the answers to questions regarding rich sources of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, fat, vitamins and minerals is presented in Table 1. To preserve clarity of results, a 25% grid was used, as above.
Table 1. Correct answers to questions related to rich sources of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, fat, vitamins and minerals for the population studied.
Nutrition sub-topicNumber of questionsNumber of questions where factor impact was significantCorrect answer dispersal/structure in % of the population studied 
0.0-25.025.1-50.050.1-75.075.1-100.0
1. Rich sources of protein1462561
2. Rich sources of fat1451670
3. Rich sources of carbohydrates1439500
4. Rich sources of dietary fibre14210400
5. Rich sources of vitamins1465432
6. Rich sources of minerals1428600
The need to acquire general nutritional knowledge had a significant impact on 24 answers from the whole questionnaire. These can be grouped as follows:
– answers to 6 questions regarding vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, sweets and alcohol as rich sources of protein. Only meat and poultry are considered to be rich sources of protein (1, 2, 4, 10).
– answers to 5 questions regarding rich sources of fat: grains and their derivatives, vegetables, fruit, pulses, and fat derived from plants. Of the listed products only the last item is considered to be a rich source of fat, although among the pulses the soybean is considered to be a good source of fat (1, 2, 4, 10).
– answers to 3 questions on rich sources of carbohydrates, listing fish, eggs, and non-alcoholic beverages. None of these is, of course, a rich source of carbohydrates (1, 2, 4, 10).
– answers to 2 questions regarding rich sources of dietary fibre, mentioning eggs and non-alcoholic beverages as sources. As in paragraph above, none of these is a source of dietary fibre (1, 2, 4, 10).
– answers to 6 questions on rich sources of vitamins. The list contained: vegetables and fruit, poultry, fish, sweets and alcoholic beverages. Of this list only sweets, with the exception of chocolate, and alcoholic beverages, are recognised as not being rich sources of vitamins (1, 2, 4, 10).
– answers to 2 questions on rich sources of minerals, listing vegetables and alcoholic beverages. Of this list, only vegetables are considered to be a rich source of minerals (1, 2, 4, 10, 11).
It is a matter of concern that in 50% of the population studied there were no correct answers regarding rich sources of dietary fibre, carbohydrates or minerals. Up to 75% (grid 50.1-75%) of the respondents gave correct answers to 7 questions related to rich sources of fat. For 1 question related to rich sources of protein and 2 others regarding rich sources of vitamins more than 75.1% (grid 75.1-100%) of the individuals provided correct answers.
Most of the correct answers to these questions were given by those students who had the need to acquire general nutritional knowledge and the least by those who didn´t know whether they had such a need. In general, the level of knowledge related to rich sources of nutrients was poor. It is very unfavourable, since knowledge of nutrients and their roles in the human organism is essential to establish a balanced diet. In individuals practicing sport, a rapid balancing of carbohydrates is of paramount importance (1, 2, 4). It is alarming that knowledge related to this aspect of nutrition was particularly poor.
4. Nutrients and their role in the human body
The summary of the answers to questions related to nutrients is presented in Table 2.
Table 2. Correct answers to questions related to nutrients and their role in the human body.
Nutrition sub-topicNumber of questionsNumber of questions where factor impact was significantCorrect answer dispersal/structure in % of the population studied
0.0-25.025.1-50.050.1-75.075.1-100.0
1. Food components and their function20410541
The need to acquire general nutritional knowledge had a significant impact on answers to 4 questions on nutrients and their role in the human body. The questions asked if protein, carbohydrates and minerals are ´building materials´ for the body, and if there is such a process as adaptation to dehydration. The "building materials" of the body are protein and minerals. There is no adaptation to dehydration in humans (4, 6, 7, 8, 9).
The young athletes´ knowledge of nutrients and their role in the body was poor. Most of the correct answers were given by those who expressed the need to acquire general nutritional knowledge and the least were given by those who didn´t know whether they had such a need. Only one question in this part was answered correctly by more than 75% (grid 75.1-100%). 50.1% to 75.0% of the students answered correctly to 4 questions and 25.1% to 50.0% answered correctly to 5 questions. It is worrying that the majority of answers were incorrect for as many as 10 questions (grid 0-25%).
5. Composition of diet and its assessment
The summary of questions related to the composition of diet and its assessment is presented in Table 3.
Table 3. Correct answers to questions related to composition of diet and its assessment.
Nutrition sub-topicNumber of questionsNumber of questions where factor impact was significantCorrect answer dispersal/structure in % of the population studied 
0.0-25.025.1-50.050.1-75.075.1-100.0
1. Composition of diet604200
2. Diet balancing770430
3. Assessment of diet1540564
The need to acquire general nutritional knowledge had a significant impact on 11 answers, of which 7 related to balancing a diet in energy, protein, fat, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. It is generally acknowledged that balancing a diet means providing essential quantity of all the nutrients listed above (9, 12, 13, 14). The remaining 4 questions were related to diet assessment and involved regularity of having dinner, energy balance, the value of protein from fish, and the value of a vegetarian diet. Dinner should be eaten regularly. Energy intake should satisfy the needs of the human body. Fish is a healthier source of protein than meat (4, 8, 9, 15). Numerous sources (11, 14, 18) suggest that a balanced vegetarian diet does not present a health hazard and can be applied in the nutrition of all population groups.
Knowledge related to the composition of diet (6 questions) was very low. Only 25% of the students could provide correct answers to 4 of the questions and 50% could provide correct answers only to 2 questions. Better knowledge was found in the section on a balanced diet – from 50.1% to 75.0% of the athletes gave correct answers to 3 questions and 25.1% to 50.0.% gave correct answers to 4 questions. Of the 15 questions related to diet assessment, more than half of the students were able to provide 10 correct answers, of which 4 were correctly answered by more than 75.0%.
Most of the correct answers were given by those who had the need to acquire general nutritional knowledge. Conversely, those who did not know if they had such a need provided the least of the correct answers.
6. Nutrition in children and adolescents
A summary of correct answers to questions related to nutrition in children and adolescents is presented in Table 4.
Table 4. Correct answers to questions related to nutrition in children and adolescents.
Nutrition sub-topicNumber of questionsNumber of questions where factor impact was significantCorrect answer dispersal/structure in % of the population studied
0.0-25.025.1-50.050.1-75.075.1-100.0
1. Principles of nutrition in children and adolescents1071720
The results show a co-relation between the need to acquire general nutritional knowledge, and the answers to 7 questions on the nutrients providing the most energy, on food preferences and nutritional value as determinants of food choice, and on vitamin supplementation. In children and adolescents´ diet the largest portion of energy should be derived from carbohydrates. Food choice should be guided by nutritional value, not by individual food preferences. In case of diet deficient in vitamins a supplementation should be provided, up to as much as 100% of the recommended norms (9, 12, 13, 14, 19).
Among the athletes, knowledge of nutrition in children and adolescents was poor. Of 10 questions addressing this issue, less than half of the students were able to give correct answers to 8 of them. In case of 1 question less than 25% of the population was able to provide correct answer. Only 2 questions were answered correctly by the majority of the respondents (grid 50.1-75%).
The highest level of knowledge of nutrition in children and adolescents was possessed by those who had the need to acquire general nutritional knowledge.
CONCLUSION
1. The need to acquire general nutritional knowledge was the most differentiating factor in the responses within the population studied.
2. General nutritional knowledge among the research participants was generally poor. Those who had the need to acquire general nutritional knowledge were able to provide the most satisfactory answers.
3. The results of this research indicate a need to incorporate in sports school curricula teaching programmes related to principles of nutrition in children and adolescents practicing sport. Teachers´ and coaches´ attention should be drawn to the importance of this issue.
Piśmiennictwo
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Adres do korespondencji:
chalcarz@alpha.net.pl

New Medicine 1/2004
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