THere are over 23 million children and adolescents in the US that are overweight or obese. Besides the personal cost, this leads to the increasing risk for many chronic diseases, according to research from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The article looks at the diet of American youth and finds some disturbing results.
“The epidemic of obesity among children and adolescents is now widely regarded as one of the most important public health problems in the US,” commented Jill Reedy, PhD, MPH, RD, and Susan M. Krebs-Smith, PhD, MPH, RD, both of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD. “Most experts agree that the solution will involve changes in both diet and physical activity, in order to affect energy balance. For diet, this means a reduction in energy from current consumption levels…This paper identifies the major sources of overall energy and empty calories, providing context for dietary guidance that could specifically focus on limiting calories from these sources and for changes in the food environment. Product reformulation alone is not sufficient—the flow of empty calories into the food supply must be reduced.”
Empty calories were defined as the sum of energy from solid fats and added sugars.
For kids 2-18 year the study found:
- The top sources of energy were grain desserts, pizza, and soda.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda and fruit drinks combined) provided almost 10% of total calories consumed.
- Nearly 40% of total calories were in the form of empty calories from solid fat and from added sugars.
- Half of empty calories came from six foods: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
Children of different ages get their energy from different sources. For example, the top five sources of energy for 2-3 year olds included whole milk, fruit juice, reduced-fat milk, and pasta and pasta dishes. Pasta and reduced-fat milk were also among the top five sources of energy for 4-8 year olds. Top contributors of energy also varied by race/ethnicity. For example, major contributors for 2- to 18-year-old non-Hispanic blacks included fruit drinks and pasta and pasta dishes, while Mexican Americans’ top sources included Mexican mixed dishes and whole milk. Non-Hispanic blacks and whites consumed more energy from sugar-sweetened beverages (combining soda and fruit drinks) than from milk (combining all milks), whereas Mexican Americans consumed more energy from milk than from sugar-sweetened beverages.