Study on Link Between Fast Food and Childhood Obesity

The study shows fast food consumption among kids has increased fivefold since 1970.

Nutritionists say a little fast food once in a while never hurts anyone, but many folks make eating it a daily habit, and that's not a good idea.

As a YMCA fitness instructor and wellness director, Meggin Van Hook says getting today's youth to eat well gets tougher and tougher all the time.

"I found that one in three children is obese in today's society, and that's in America so it's a huge epidemic,” Van Hook explains.

New studies show that one-third of American children eat fast food every day, consuming 187 more daily calories than kids that eat at home.

Nutritionists say billions of dollars spent on advertising each year could be attracting children to fast food. They say youngsters may be more interested in what comes along with a kids' meal than the food itself.

"It's really getting them in the mindset that, okay, this is a quick fix. We can do this after soccer practice, we'll just run through and grab a burger. And there's nothing wrong with that occasionally, but it's after every practice, after every game,” Van Hook says.

Nutritionists suggest introducing children to fruits, vegetables, and grains, and giving them water instead of soda.

They also add that a good diet, paired with plenty of exercise, will get your child on a healthier track in 2004.

Nutritionists say the key to a healthier diet is to avoid too many fats, sugars, and carbohydrates.

McDonald’s is even testing out a new combo meal in the Indianapolis area that includes a pedometer instead of a toy, and a bottle of water instead of a soft drink. Extended Web Coverage

Obesity in Children

  • In 1999, 13 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years in the United States were overweight.

  • Risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, occur with increased frequency in overweight children and adolescents compared to children with a healthy weight.

  • Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in children and adolescents. Overweight and obesity are closely linked to type 2 diabetes.

  • Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese.

  • Overweight or obese adults are at risk for a number of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.

  • The most immediate consequence of being overweight or obese as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination. This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.

Cause of Obesity

  • Obesity in children and adolescents is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles in determining a child's weight.

  • Our society has become very sedentary. Television, computer and video games contribute to children's inactive lifestyles.

  • Forty-three percent of adolescents watch more than two hours of television each day.

  • Children, especially girls, become less active as they move through adolescence.


  • Doctors and other health care professionals are the best people to determine whether your child or adolescent's weight is healthy, and they can help rule out rare medical problems as the cause of unhealthy weight.

  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) can be calculated from measurements of height and weight. Health professionals often use a BMI "growth chart" to help them assess whether a child or adolescent is overweight.

  • A physician will also consider your child or adolescent's age and growth patterns to determine whether his or her weight is healthy.

General Suggestions

  • Let your child know he or she is loved and appreciated whatever his or her weight. An overweight child probably knows better than anyone else that he or she has a weight problem.

  • Overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement from their parents.

  • Focus on your child's health and positive qualities, not your child's weight.

  • Try not to make your child feel different if he or she is overweight but focus on gradually changing your family's physical activity and eating habits.

  • Be a good role model for your child. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and for the rest of his or her life.

Physical Activity Suggestions

  • Be physically active. It is recommended that Americans accumulate at least 30 minutes (adults) or 60 minutes (children) of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Even greater amounts of physical activity may be necessary for the prevention of weight gain, for weight loss, or for sustaining weight loss.

  • Plan family activities that provide everyone with exercise and enjoyment.

  • Provide a safe environment for your children and their friends to play actively; encourage swimming, biking, skating, ball sports, and other fun activities.

  • Reduce the amount of time you and your family spend in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games. Limit TV time to less than two hours a day.

Source: (The Surgeon General's Call to Action Web site)