Study: 40% of Kids’ Calories Come From Solid Fat and Sugar

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Baked goods, pizza and soda. According to an article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, these are the top three sources of calories for Americans, aged 2 to 18 years. And that’s not all — the study found a series of statistics that show how our food is endangering the health of the next generation.

Analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers were able to get a high-quality, representative and stratified sample of the country’s youth and their eating habits.

More than 23 million American children and adolescents are either overweight or obese, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s no wonder, considering that nearly 40% of the total calories consumed by 2-to-18-year-olds in the current study were considered “empty” — devoid of nutrients and from fat and sugar sources. Almost 10% of their total calorie intake came exclusively from sugary sodas and fruit drinks. (More on Time.com: Do Parents Discriminate Against Their Own Chubby Children?)

Though no one was immune from sugary, fatty snacks, some dietary differences followed ethnic affiliation: while non-Hispanic blacks and whites drank primarily soda and juice, Latinos — particularly Mexican-Americans — consumed a larger percentage of their liquid calories from whole milk.

“High added sugar consumption which occurs most commonly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a constellation of cardiovascular risk factors, both independently, and through the development of obesity,” wrote pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Rae-Ellen W. Kavey from the University of Rochester Medical Center in a commentary accompanying the study. (More on Time.com: Study: America Is Officially the Fattest Developed Country in the World)

The researchers did not blame the willpower of kids. Instead they recommended that the food offered at restaurants, supermarkets and in school cafeterias must change to bring about lasting dietary shifts among the nation’s children.

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