Fast food not to blame for overweight kids
When it comes to kids being overweight or obese, it is easy to just blame fast food. But new research says the problems begin at home and extend beyond the drive-up window.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, say kids’ consumption of fast food is only one piece of the troubling puzzle. Instead, they point to the food choices parents and caregivers make available for their children.
The study results showed that parents offer too “few fruits and vegetables, relying instead on high amounts of processed food and sugar-sweetened beverages.”
“This is really what is driving children’s obesity,” said study leader Barry Popkin, PhD, in a news release. “Eating fast foods is just one behavior that results from those bad habits. Just because children who eat more fast food are the most likely to become obese does not prove that calories from fast foods bear the brunt of the blame.”
Survey data from nearly 4,500 children from 2 to 18 years old was used for the study. Researchers compared their overall diet habits including their fast food consumption and risks for obesity.
“The study presented strong evidence that the children’s diet beyond fast- food consumption is more strongly linked to poor nutrition and obesity,” said the study’s co-author Jennifer Poti. “While reducing fast-food intake is important, the rest of a child’s diet should not be overlooked.”
Childhood obesity is on the rise and with it comes a host of health threats. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010.
Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height. Obesity is defined as having 20 percent or more of excess body fat beyond an ideal body weight.
Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, a physician with Advocate Medical Group, says keeping kids fit is a family affair.
“The entire family needs to be engaged in the dietary changes that are essential to treating the child who is overweight or obese,” she says. “Everyone in the house needs make every effort to limit fast food, increase exercise and place a high value on healthy eating.”
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