For several years, many have been quick to attribute rising fast-food consumption as the major factor causing rapid increases in childhood obesity. However a new study found that fast-food consumption is simply a byproduct of a much bigger problem: poor all-day-long dietary habits that originate in children’s homes. The study, titled “The association of fast food consumption with poor dietary outcomes and obesity among children: is it the fast food or the remainder of diet?,” was produced by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and published in the latest issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study’s researchers found that children’s consumption of fast food is only a small part of a much more pervasive dietary pattern that is fostered at an early age by children’s parents and caregivers. The pattern includes few fruits and vegetables, relying instead on high amounts of processed food and sugar-sweetened beverages. These food choices are also reinforced in the meals students are offered at school. “This is really what is driving children’s obesity,” said Dr. Barry Popkin, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of nutrition at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, whose team led the study. “Eating fast foods is just one behavior that results from those bad habits. Just because children who eat more fast food are the most likely to become obese does not prove that calories from fast foods bear the brunt of the blame.”
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