Fast Food Consumption Leads to Excess of Soda and Calorie Intake in Kids

First Posted: Nov 06, 2012 06:13 PM EST

A latest study states that when children and adolescents opt for fast food or full service restaurants instead of their daily meals at home, they unknowingly consume excess of calories and soda leading to a poor nutrient intake.

This research that is being conducted by the researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago is the first study to look separately at fast-food and full-service restaurants.

The study was based on the data of three waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for the years between 2003 and 2008. The researchers examined calorie intake, diet quality, and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly soda, on days when youngsters ate out as compared to days they did not. The study was conducted on 4,717 children who belonged to the age group 2 to 11 and around 4, 699 adolescents who belonged to the age group 12 to 19.

What the researchers noticed is that, at the restaurant's the youth tended to consume higher amounts of sugar, total fat, saturated fat and sodium. And the adolescents consumed twice as much soda when eating in the restaurant, as compared to when they ate the restaurant food at home.

"We attribute that to the free refills," says Lisa Powell, professor of health policy and administration in the UIC School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "Children and adolescents also drank less milk on days when they ate at restaurants," she said.

In studies conducted earlier by Powell and colleagues, they found that 41 percent of adolescents consume fast food on a given day, in an amount that averages almost 1,000 calories. One-third of children ages 2 to 11 consume fast food on a given day.

Whereas the new study showed that when the adolescents consumed fast food, they consumed an additional 309 calories, indicating that they don't reduce their non-restaurant food intake enough to compensate. Young children took in an additional 126 calories. Full-service dining caused increases of about 267 calories for teens and 160 calories for children.

According to Powell, the concern is that the kids are consuming more fast food that too frequently and not in moderation.

Powell suggests that, the concern is that by restricting the consumption from restaurants would be helpful in improving diet outcomes among children and youth. Also lays emphasis on the need for better nutritional standards "to improve the range of healthy food options available, in order to turn around the obesity trend."

Apart from this the study also shows that the fast food display an adverse effects on diet for lower-income children, potentially increasing health disparities. They noticed that the lower-income teens who consumed fast food took in more sugar, total fat, saturated fat, and sodium when compared to the higher-income peers.

When lower-income youths are eating fast food, they are choosing more energy-dense, lower quality foods that tend to be higher in fats and sodium and can be purchased cheaply," said Powell, who conducts her research at UIC's Institute for Health Research and Policy.

"They are not going to the fast-food restaurant and getting a salad or the healthier turkey sub with lots of veggies."

"We need an environment that promotes healthy rather than unhealthy food and beverage choices," Powell said.

The study was published online by Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

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