A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics shows that just over one-third of kids and teens (34.3 percent) eat at fast food restaurants on any given day. What’s more, they consume more than 12 percent of their overall calories from fast food.
“Fast food has also been associated with higher caloric intake and poorer diet quality in children and adolescents. From 1994 through 2006, caloric intake from fast food increased from 10% to 13% among children aged 2–18 years,” cites the CDC report.
Teens aged 12 to 18 ate fast food nearly twice as much as children, but the study found no difference in consumption based on sex, poverty status, or weight status. However, Asian children and teens consumed the least of any ethnic group compared with white, black, and Hispanic children and teens.
According to the CDC:
Non-Hispanic Asian children and adolescents aged 2–19 consumed significantly fewer daily calories (8.0%) from fast food compared with non-Hispanic white (13.1%), non-Hispanic black (13.9%), and Hispanic (11.2%) children and adolescents.
Calorically dense diets that include fast food, soda, and highly processed junk foods, as well as a sedentary lifestyle, have been blamed for the growing obesity epidemic among children and teens. The CDC reports that obesity among children has doubled in the past three decades and quadrupled among teens. Those numbers are even higher among African American and Hispanic communities, where the obesity rates for children now top 40 percent.
The larger concern is that obesity early on in life often translates to continued obesity into adulthood, and may lead to chronic health conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, and diabetes. Obese youth are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In fact, the CDC found that 70 percent of obese youth aged 5 to 17 had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Teens, who ate the most fast food of any group, may suffer from nutrient deficiencies: According to another CDC report, only one in 10 teens get the minimum amount of recommended fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
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Young girl eating fast food image via Shuttershock