-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- While some fast-food chains
are required to provide calorie and other nutritional information
to help customers make informed choices, kids who eat fast food at
least twice a week are 50 percent less likely to use this
information than kids who eat fast food less often, according to a
new U.S. study.
Those most likely to use the calorie information are girls and
children who are obese, said the researchers from the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study was published online May 23 in the
Journal of Public Health.
"Our findings are important given the high prevalence of obesity among youth and the adverse health effects associated with obesity," study lead author Dr. Holly Wethington said in a journal news release. "It is encouraging that a large number of youth, particularly youth who are obese, reported using the calorie information.
"This may have potential to lead to improved food and beverage choices as a way to manage weight, although more research is needed to assess whether youth know how many calories they should consume in a day given their activity level," added Wethington, of the CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity.
Childhood obesity has tripled in recent decades, partly due to
fast food that is higher in calories, salt and fat than food
prepared at home, the CDC researchers noted. In conducting the
study, they analyzed mail surveys from 721 kids ranging in age from
9 to 18 years.
The survey, done in the fall of 2010, asked the children how
often they ate fast food, and if they considered the calorie
information on the menu. They were also asked if this information
influenced their food choices. The researchers also considered the
participants' age, gender, height and weight.
Fifty-six percent of those surveyed were boys, and while most of
the children were a healthy weight, 13 percent were obese.
The survey revealed that 66 percent of the kids said they ate
fast food once a week or less, and 34 percent reported eating fast
food two or more times a week.
Forty-two percent of the kids said they considered the calorie
information when making food choices; nearly 58 percent said they
never used it, the survey found.
Girls were 80 percent more likely to consider calories than
boys, and obese children were about 70 percent more likely to use
Those eating fast food twice a week or more were 50 percent less
likely to consider calorie counts than the kids who ate fast food
less frequently, the investigators found.
The study authors suggested that public health and school
officials could create educational programs designed to help young
people understand calorie information so it can become a part of an
overall weight management strategy.
"This welcome research adds to our understanding of young people and their food choices," Lindsey Davies, president of the U.K. Faculty of Public Health, said in the news release. "It's good news that some young people want to understand more about the food they're eating and are using calorie information when they eat in fast-food restaurants."
However, to fight the obesity epidemic, Davies added that it's
important to know why young people choose to eat fast food so
often. Legislators could help tackle the problem by banning trans
fats, which have no nutritional value and can increase the risk for
heart disease, she said.
Visit Harvard Medical School for more on
children and fast food.
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