Fast AND nutritious...
Fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. Click image for caption and other
Survey Links Fast Food, Poor Nutrition Among
U.S. Children By Rosalie Marion Bliss
January 5, 2004
A collaborative study conducted by
Agricultural Research Service and
Harvard University scientists showed
decreased nutritional dietary quality and increased caloric intake among U.S.
children on days when they consumed fast food. The study, which appears in the
January issue of the journal Pediatrics, confirms
other similar, previously published studies.
The authors analyzed existing dietary intake data from 6,212
children and adolescents, aged 4 to 19, from a nationally representative USDA
Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, 1994-1996, and the
Supplemental Children's Survey, 1998. The survey data are collected on two
non-consecutive days by ARS, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
U.S. children who ate fast food, compared with those who did
not, consumed more total calories, more calories per gram of food, more total
and saturated fat, more total carbohydrate, more added sugars and more
sugar-sweetened beverages, but less milk, fiber, fruit and nonstarchy
vegetables. The study also revealed out of the two days surveyed, those
children who consumed fast food on only one day showed similar nutrient
shortfalls on the day they had fast food. But they did not show these
shortfalls on the other day.
The study's coauthors include nutritionist Shanthy A. Bowman
with the ARS Community Nutrition
Research Group, Beltsville, Md.; David S. Ludwig and colleagues with
Children's Hospital Boston, Mass.;
and Steven L. Gortmaker with Boston's Harvard School of Public Health.
Some experts estimate that childhood consumption of fast foods
increased fivefold, from 2 percent of daily meals in the late 1970s, to 10
percent of daily meals by the mid-1990s. During that time, the number of fast
food restaurants more than doubled to an estimated 250,000 nationwide.
The findings are important because childhood obesity is
increasing in prevalence. Inadequate consumption of fruits and vegetables has
been associated with obesity-related problems such as cardiovascular disease
and diabetes. Fruits and nonstarchy vegetables may protect against excessive
weight gain because of their low energy density and high fiber content.