A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals surprising trends in fast food consumption among teenagers.
The findings were based on data from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which monitors the health and eating habits of the following subgroups in the United States: Hispanic persons, non-Hispanic black persons, non-Hispanic Asian persons, and non-Hispanic white persons and others.
Researchers discovered that fast food intake among American teenagers is overwhelmingly high and habitual. According to the study, around 34.3% of all respondents aged 2-19 eat fast food on any given day.
Approximately 12.1% of all teenage respondents actually get more than 40% of their daily calorie intake from meals such as hamburgers, french fries, pizza, tacos or fried chicken. 10.7% consume around 25% to 40% of their calories when eating fast food, while 11.6% get less than a quarter of their daily intake from fast food joints.
Overall, on a daily basis, American teenagers rely on fast food products for 12.4% of their daily energy intake.
There are insignificant differences in fast food consumption among female participants versus males, with daily intakes being statistically equivalent, according to experts.
On the other hand, there are slight differences when it comes to the participants’ income. Kids from poor families usually consume 11.5% of their daily calories through fast food items, whereas teenagers with a higher economic status eat more of these products (13%).
While the gap isn’t wide enough to be assessed as statistically significant, it still represents a startling find. It used to be a commonly held belief that being closer to the poverty line may predispose people to make unhealthier food choices, which tend to be cheaper and more satiating. This in turn would explain their much higher obesity rates.
However, it appears being from a low-income family doesn’t necessarily lead to a heightened junk food consumption.
On the other hand, racial identity seems to be greatly influential in the youngsters’ eating habits.
Overall, Asian Americans consume much less fast food (8% of their daily intake), and Latino kids are also under the national average in their overall consumption (11.2%). In contrast, 13% of a white kid’s daily energy intake is represented by fast food, and this percentage is even higher among African Americas (13.9%).
Stark differences exist even when it comes to the participants’ age: those between 2 and 11 rely on junk food much less than their older counterparts (8.7% versus 16.9% of the daily calorie intake).
There were also some slight variations in fast food intake, depending on the participants’ weight: those who were underweight or at a normal weight ingested 12.2% of their daily calories as fast food.
On the other hand, overweight kids actually ate slightly less junk food (11.6%), while obese teenagers had the highest percentage of daily fast food consumption (14.6%).
By and large, the results paint a grim picture of the food habits young people have in the United States. Unhealthy diets are greatly detrimental to health, as evidenced by the fact that in the last 30 years obesity rates have doubled among teenagers, and quadrupled among adolescents.
According to the CDC, in 2012 more than a third of all people under the age of 19 were overweight and obese. As a result, Dietary Guidelines issued by the Department of Agriculture urge people to eat few calories, make wiser food choices, and engage in regular physical activity
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