A primary contributor to rising disease rates?

BY JULIE FIDLER
POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 22, 2015

According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control, 17% of children between the ages of 2 and 9 years old are obese. There are numerous reasons for this, with a new report put out by the agency shedding light on why so many kids are packing on pounds – the consumption of fast food. [1]

In the U.S., more than 1 in 3 children and teens ages 2 to 19 will fill up on pizza, fried chicken, tacos or some other greasy fast-food item every day. The 5,000 kids surveyed by the CDC came from poor, middle-class, and wealthy families. [2]

The study found that:

  • 12.1% of these children will get more than 40% of their daily calories from eating fast-food.
  • Another 10.7% will eat 25% to 40% of their daily calories from Chicken McNuggets, Whoppers, and the like.
  • And 11.6% of youths will get fewer than 25% of their calories from chowing down at one of these restaurants.
  • Children who live just above the poverty line and below get about 12% of their daily calories from fast food
  • Children from working- and middle- class families get about 9% of their daily calories from fast-food
  • Poor children get about 8% of their calories from such establishments

The child’s weight didn’t appear to matter much, either.

  • Overweight youngsters and children of a healthy weight were about as likely to get at least one of their meals from a deep fryer or fat-filled grill every day.
  • Youths who were underweight or had a normal weight averaged 12.2% of their daily calories from fast-food.
  • Overweight children averaged about 11.6% and obese children averaged around 14.6%.

The good news – if you can call it that – is that the numbers are about the same as they were in the 1990’s, at least according to the report. [3]

“At least we’re not seeing it go up,” said one of the report’s authors, Cheryl Fryar.

Some other interesting findings from the survey include:

  • Teens got about 17% of their daily calories from fast-food, compared to about 9% of younger children.
  • Black, white, and Hispanic youth all got about 12% of their daily calories from eating at fast-food establishments.
  • Asians got significantly less of their calories by eating at the restaurants – around 8%.
  • Researchers surmise that fast-food hasn’t really caught on in Asian households, much to their benefit.

The CDC didn’t specify how many calories the survey participants actually ate, but past government studies have found that kids consume about 1,900 calories a day, which breaks down to about 245 daily calories from fast-food – about the equivalent of a basic McDonald’s hamburger.

Fast-food chains are trying to offer “healthier” menu items, but it’s still incredibly difficult to order a healthy meal from one of the restaurants. Many of the healthy options only sound healthy: a Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Buttermilk Crispy Chicken from McDonald’s, for example, contains 490 calories, 29g of fat and 1,000mg of sodium, and that’s without the dressing. [4]

The best thing to do? Just avoid fast food completely if you can.