Age at menarche and diet among adolescents in slums of Nashik, India

Sushama Khopkar 1 , Sangita Kulathinal 2 , Suvi M. Virtanen 3 , and Minna Säävälä 4
  • 1 Department of Statistics, H.P. T. Arts and R. Y. K. Sc. College, Nashik, India; and School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland
  • 2 Division of Nutrition, Department of Food and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland
  • 3 Nutrition Unit, The National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland; School of Health Sciences and Center for Child Health Research, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland; Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland; and The Science Center of Pirkanmaa Hospital District, Tampere, Finland
  • 4 Population Research Institute, University of Helsinki, Vaestoliitto, PO Box 849, 00101 Helsinki, Finland
Sushama Khopkar, Sangita Kulathinal, Suvi M. Virtanen and Minna Säävälä


Background and aim: The role of dietary patterns in determining age at menarche is insufficiently understood in low-income countries. The relationship between dietary patterns, particularly the consumption of oil, and age at menarche in a slum-dwelling adolescent population in India is examined.

Methods: Data were derived from a cross-sectional baseline survey and anthropometric measurements among 10- to 19-year-old adolescents (n=545, female respondents 272, of whom 160 were post-menarcheal) and a household survey in two slums in the city of Nashik, Western India. By using mixed effects linear regression models, the association between age at menarche and household-wise use of sources of animal protein and oil and fat is examined.

Results: Age at menarche (mean 13.7 years) in the slums studied was relatively high according to Indian standards. Age at menarche and the consumption of dairy products, meat, fish and eggs were not associated. The household per capita consumption of vegetable oil had an inverse association with a girl’s age at menarche, and there was an indication of a positive association between use of ghee (clarified butter) and age at menarche. These associations did not disappear when controlling for anthropometric status and socio-economic characteristics.

Conclusion: Intake of fats and foods that are important sources of protein among underprivileged households in India is low and reflected in the relatively late age at menarche. The potential differences in the association between various types of fatty acids, energy intake and age at menarche in conditions of undernutrition requires further prospective study.

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