01 October 2010

Kids' diets need an overhaul

Worldwide, children are getting fatter, which ups their risks of chronic disease. A study has found that it's mostly due to diets filled with sugary drinks and empty kilojoules.

With millions of children and adolescents are overweight or obese and the risks for many chronic diseases increasing, a study of childrens' diets has revealed some disturbing truths.

"The epidemic of obesity among children and adolescents is now widely regarded as one of the most important public health problems, especially in the US," said 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.

"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 kilojoules, providing context for dietary guidance that could specifically focus on limiting kilojoules from these sources and for changes in the food environment.

"Product reformulation alone is not sufficient - the flow of empty kilojoules into the food supply must be reduced."

The study

Children of different ages get their energy from different sources. For example, the top five sources of energy for two to three 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 four to eight year olds.  Top contributors of energy also varied by race/ethnicity.

In an accompanying commentary, Rae-Ellen W. Kavey, MD, MPH, University of Rochester Medical Center, Department of Paediatrics, Division of Cardiology, Rochester, NY, discusses the role of sugar-sweetened beverages in the development of obesity in childhood. 


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