According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, kids in the US are increasingly snacking on junk foods more than ever. The increase amounted to up to 27 percent of caloric intake connected to junk food consumption. It is in line with a rising occurrence of childhood obesity in the country, which puts the kids at more risk of developing hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
The researchers looked into nationally representative surveys of food intake in more than 31,000 kids in the US from 1977 to 2006. The researchers focused into the snacking patterns of the kids and found out that there were substantial increases. The first survey made from 1977 to 1978 had 74 percent of kids from 2 to 18 years old snacking on foods outside their regular meals. The most recent survey held from 2003 to 2006 shown an increase of 98 percent.
According to Barry Popkin, Ph.D and senior author of the study, "Kids still eat three meals a day but they’re also loading up on high calorie junk food that contains little or no nutritional value during these snacks."
Between 1977 and 2006, the kids increased their caloric intake of junk foods art an average of 168 calories per day for up to a total of 586 calories. The largest increase was found on kids aged 2 to 6 years old who showed an increase of 181 calories during their snack time per day as compared to numbers two decades earlier. This might indicate a troubling pattern of unhealthy eating occurring early in life according to Popkin.
The largest increase in the type of junk food intake was seen on the salty and fatty snacks group which include chips and crackers. The kids are also likely to skip on drinking milk or grabbing a fruit or vegetable during snack time. The increase of calorie intake involving junk foods, coupled with an increasingly inactive lifestyle composed mainly time spent watching TV or playing with computer games have led to weight gain and the current problem of obesity among more and more kids in the US today.