Another Reason for Kids Eating Less Fast Foods

Fast foods

We know that a diet high in fast foods tend to put weight on children and teens, but did you know that fast food consumption is also tied to an increased risk of certain health conditions?

A study coming out of New Zealand found that:

  • Children and teens eating fast foods a number of times each week are at an increased risk for severe asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis, and eczema.
  • Fruit eaten three or more times a week provide children and teens with a protective effect against severe asthma.

According to Philippa Ellwood, DDN, DPH, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and her colleagues, eating fast foods three or more times a week is associated with a 39% increased risk of severe asthma and a 70% increased risk of severe eczema among teens.In addition, children who eat fast foods with the same frequency have an increased risk of rhino-conjunctivitis and severe eczema.

The study article, published in journal Thorax, went on to report that reducing consumption of fast foods to two times a week, or less, reduced the incidence of wheezing and severe asthma in children. Ellwood and colleagues also found that eating fruit three or more times a week, among children and teens, offered a protective effect against severe asthma.

The authors stated,  “If the associations found in this study are causal, the findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally,”

The authors noted that earlier research had found diets with high intake of cereal, rice, and nut and cereal protein showed decreased prevalence of the allergic conditions and a protective effect against the conditions with elevated fruit consumption. Similarly, other research has shown a harmful effect of linolenic acid and trans fatty acid consumption.

The researchers gathered symptom prevalence data on types of food intake and symptom prevalence of asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis, wheezing, and eczema from 319,196 teens, ages 13 and 14, from 51 countries, and 181,631 children, ages 6 and 7, from 31 countries through the third phase of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). The latter is a multi-center, multi-country, multiphase cross-sectional study.

Teen participants, or parents of young children, were administered questionnaires that looked at symptoms and symptom frequency over the 12 months prior to the study. Questions about food intake looked at types of foods and whether foods were eaten once, twice, or three or more times weekly.

Milk consumption was inversely associated with current wheeze at once or twice weekly, severe asthma three or more times weekly, and severe rhino-conjunctivitis and severe eczema once or twice a week in teens.

Consumptions of eggs, fruit, meat, and milk three or more times a week protected against “all three conditions, current or severe” among children.

“The positive associations with severe disease suggest that fast foods are a predictor of disease severity rather than disease occurrence, although it is difficult to separate out the two in this study,” researchers concluded.

Study researchers also shared that the protective association between fruit and vegetables and the three conditions need to  be further explored at country and regional levels.

The researchers found the study was limited by a number of factors, including self-report biases or classification errors, socioeconomic status’ effect on food consumption, and missing temporal data on disease outcome relative to diet.

 

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When Kid’s Snacks Are Healthy and Inexpensive

snacksYes, we all know that much of the junk food out there usually costs less than healthy snacks.

We also know that regularly consuming junk food can pack on the pounds.

Well here is some good news about snacks.

From 2006 to 2008, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health evaluated the snacks offered to kids at 32 YMCAs in four cities in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, South, Midwest and East. Researchers found that health snacks and/or snack combinations don’t have to cost more than junk food.

The YMCA sites participated in a program called the YMCA/Harvard Afterschool Food and Fitness Project, designed to improve the diets and boost physical activity among kids aged 5 to 12 attending the Ys’ after-school programs.

The project set out standards for snacks served at YMCAs, including: serving water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, offering whole grains and a fruit or vegetable with each snack and avoiding trans fats.

The average cost per snack was 57 cents, with prices ranging from 47 cents in the Midwest and Northeast to 78 cents in the Pacific Northwest. As expected, snacks that met the healthy eating standards cost 50 percent more than those that didn’t.

Yet, some YMCAs found ways of mixing and matching combinations that both met the healthy eating standards and kept costs at or even below what it would cost to serve  less healthy snacks.

Some Ys served water instead of fruit juice, which significantly reduced the price of a snack. Instead of the fruit juice, Ys could serve water and a banana or apple slices and water, and the snack had the same calorie count at a lower cost. The whole fruit has the added nutritional benefits of fiber and helping kids feel fuller, longer than juice.

Another example was serving water and cheese, which  is less expensive than serving chocolate milk, and the cheese contains less sugar.

Other areas where Ys could make improvements without adding to cost were substituting whole grains, in foods such as Triscuits, Wheat Thins and Cheerios, for refined grains such as graham crackers and Saltines.

Snacks that include canned or frozen vegetables are on the pricy side, but snacks including fresh vegetables, such as carrots and celery, are not.

The study is in the February issue of the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, called the study “well-conducted.” However, the five criteria used to determine what qualifies as a healthy snack option aren’t as comprehensive as she would like.

She cited tortilla chips counting as a whole grain and therefore meeting the criteria for a healthy snack option, but they’re also full of saturated fat, which may contribute to heart disease over the long term.

“Applesauce counts as a fruit, but it would be better if the guidelines specified that the after-school programs choose applesauce without added sugar. In addition to addressing saturated fats and added sugars, the healthiest after-school snack would take into account calories and sodium, which many American children get too much of as well,” Dubost said.

For more on choosing healthy snacks for children, visit Food and Fun After School.

(SOURCES: Rebecca Mozaffarian, M.S., M.P.H., project manager, YMCA/Harvard Afterschool Food and Fitness Project; Joy Dubost, R.D., registered dietitian and spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; February 2012, Preventing Chronic Disease)

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