Fast food consumption among children in the US is rising
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More than a third of children in the US eat fast food on any given day, according to survey results compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Fast food continues to be a big part of the American diet,” says Cheryl Fryar at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, who led the work.
Fryar and her colleagues have been tracking the fast-food intake of young people in the US since 2003. The team uses data collected as part of a large national study that has involved interviewing and assessing the health of a nationally representative group of around 5000 individuals on a yearly basis.
As part of that study, volunteers undergo face-to-face interviews to describe their eating habits, or those of their young children. Snacks or meals described as “restaurant fast food” or “pizza” were classified as fast food.
Using data collected between 2015 and 2018, Fryar and her colleagues found that, on average, young people aged between 2 and 19 got around 14 per cent of their daily calories from fast food. Only 11 per cent of young people obtained less than 25 per cent of their daily calories from such meals, while around 1 in 9 children get more than 45 per cent of their daily calories this way.
The figures represent an increase on previous years. Data collected between 2009 and 2010 suggest that, back then, children obtained just under 11 per cent of their daily calories from fast food. Fryar doesn’t know why fast food is becoming a more significant feature of young people’s diets. “It’s an interesting trend,” she says.
The consumption of fast food could have lasting impacts on children’s health. Past research suggests that children who eat more fast food have more fat and sugar in their diets, and are more likely to drink calorific sugary drinks. They are also more likely to put on body fat, putting them at greater risk of obesity in adulthood.
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