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Selected body composition and growth measures of junior elite gymnasts The sports nutrition literature emphasizes standards of body composition chracteristics of male and female athletes involved in different sports. Published reports describe the body composition of winning elite athletes, particularly those successful in Olympic and other major competitions [1-4]. Many athletes demand knowledge of their own body composition. Because of the usefulness of anthropometric and related measurements for client counseling and assessment of nutritional status, obtaining them is increasingly becoming a standard aspect of nutrition assessment in dietetic practice.
The rate at which growth proceeds and its deviation from a normal growth pattern may be extremely valuable indicators of a child's health status . Poor growth patterns are strongly associated with greater risk of disease morbidity, and nutrition is an important environmental factor that can influence growth. Age-related height:weight ratios are commonly used to monitor growth, and below-normal weight:age and height:age ratios are indicators of increased health and nutrition risk.
In the area of sports nutrition, body composition measurements have great importance in helping practitioners guide athletes toward attainment of an optimal lean:fat ratio, which may be critical to achieving high-level athletic performance. This may be particularly true in gymnastics, where success is virtually impossible without a great deal of power production per unit weight. Not surprisingly, the established standard toward which gymnasts strive is a body-fat level that maximizes this strength:weight ratio.
Young, female elite gymnasts (those able to compete at the national and international level) may face difficult choices in trying to deal with the simultaneous demands of growth, strength, weight, and optimal body-fat levels and may make a conscious decision to reduce food intake at a time when demands are highest . Restriction of food intake has been shown to delay puberty, cause growth failure, and induce amenorrhea, a potential complicating factor in bone development [7-9].
Published data [10-17] document that exercising women have higher nutrient requirements and lower nutrient intakes than suggested in the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) , putting them at high risk for nutrient deficiencies. These studies intimate that an athletic life-style coupled with inadequate caloric intake might easily induce nutrition-related problems that could limit athletic performance and negatively affect growth and health. A study  conducted at a national junior elite-level gymnastics training camp demonstrated that young female gymnasts have nutrition problems. The study evaluated nutrient intakes of 51 junior elite gymnasts and found that many had intakes of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and retinol below the RDA. When caloric requirments for younger gymnasts (7- to 10-year-olds) and older gymnasts (11- to 14-year-olds) were predicted using resting energy expenditure (10 hours resting, 8 hours of very light activity, 2 hours of light activity, and 4 hours of moderate activity), both groups were found to require more energy than they consumed. Younger gymnasts had a …