Fast food and soda should not be considered a school lunch but for many children it is. In a new study, many inner city children from a deprived neighborhood are choosing fast food at least twice a week.
Childhood obesity paves the way for future risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease risk and future risk of obesity as adults. Improving diets of children can go a long way in improving a country's health and fast food is not the best way of doing that. For children in deprived neighborhoods, where healthcare and diet may not be well-managed, diet choice may have an even greater impact on obesity and future health risks.
The new study looking at diet choice for children in a deprived neighborhood was led by Dr. Mei-Yen Chan from school of agriculture from Newcastle University. The study surveyed 193 children between the ages of 11 and 14 years old on diet habits. Body Mass Index (BMI) for the children was also obtained as part of the study.
Over 50 percent of the children, coming from a deprived neighborhood in London, ate fast food or consumed sodas or beverages from a fast food restaurant twice a week or more. Roughly 10 percent of the students had fast food or drinks from the restaurant every day. Roughly 70 percent of children from Black ethnic groups and 54 percent of Asian children ate fast food twice a week or more.
Interestingly, BMI was not associated with fast food consumption. Children who ate fast food everyday had lower BMI than children who ate fast food less than once a week, 17.8 versus 21.4 respectively. Of the participants, 21.5 percent of the children were considered obese while 9.1 percent were considered overweight.
Going to get fast food happens for a lot of reasons but for these children it was because of taste and their friends. The vast majority of children enjoyed the taste of fast food, higher than 90 percent for every group save for the group of children who ate fast food everyday which was at 76.5 percent.
When it came to drink preference, sugary soft drinks won out with 73 percent of children choosing sweetened drinks instead of diet drinks. As discussed with Dr. John Morton, director of bariatric surgery at Stanford, sodas have "no nutritive value" and even diet sodas are not that good for you.
According to the researchers, the children come from an environment where the risk for obesity is greater and poor food choices can greatly impact child obesity which could lead to obesity in adulthood. Focusing on ways to get healthier options to children, focusing on portion size and reduction in soft drink consumption can help reduce the risk of childhood obesity conclude the researchers.
The study did have limitations include a small sample size and focusing on just one neighborhood and may not translate to a general population. Future studies could include a nationally representative sample of children from different schools and neighborhoods.
The study was published in BMJ Open.