U.S. Kids Filling Up on 'Empty Calories,' Study
FRIDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Nutrition experts have
examined the diets of typical U.S. children and they don't like
what they see: Almost 40 percent of the kids' calorie consumption
comes from solid fat and added sugars.
These so-called "empty calories," mainly in soda, pizza and
desserts, are fueling the obesity epidemic among young people and
putting them at risk for developing weight-related illnesses, such
as diabetes and heart disease, the U.S. government researchers
"Product reformulation alone is not sufficient -- the flow of empty calories into the food supply must be reduced," said dietitians Jill Reedy and Susan M. Krebs-Smith, from the U.S. National Cancer Institute's division of cancer control and population sciences in Bethesda, Md.
The findings are published in the October issue of the
Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The researchers examined data from the National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey and calculated solid fats and added
sugars using the USDA MyPyramid Equivalents Database, according to
a news release from the journal publisher and the American Dietetic
The top sources of energy for 2- to 18-year-olds were grain
desserts, pizza and soda, they found. Sugar-sweetened drinks (soda
or fruit drinks) provided nearly 10 percent of total caloric
intake. Half of the kids' empty calories came from these six foods:
soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole
Energy sources varied depending on age. The top five sources of
energy for toddlers (2- to 3-years old) included whole milk, fruit
juice, reduced-fat milk, and pasta and pasta dishes. The top five
choices among 4- to 8-year-olds also included pasta and reduced-fat
milk, the investigators found.
Energy sources also varied by race and ethnicity, the dietitians
noted. Among black children, fruit drinks and pasta and pasta
dishes were the primary energy sources, while Mexican American
kids' top sources included Mexican mixed dishes and whole milk.
Blacks and whites consumed more energy from soda and fruit drinks
than from milk, whereas Mexican American children obtained more
energy from milk than from sugary drinks, the data showed.
Added sugar is especially damaging, according to Dr. Rae-Ellen
W. Kavey, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Rochester
Medical Center, who wrote an accompanying commentary in the
journal. Health consequences include accelerated atherosclerosis
and early cardiovascular disease, Kavey said in the news
"Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages should be considered a critical dietary approach to reducing cardiovascular risk in childhood," Kavey added.
A second study in the journal found that vending machines in
middle schools attract students mainly to buy snacks and beverages,
even if healthier choices are offered.
For tips on helping your overweight child, see
the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive
... Kidney Diseases.
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