KEY POINTS

  • A CDC report found more kids and teens have been consuming higher fast food calories
  • More people rely on fast food for convenience amid pandemic
  • A study found preschoolers became overweight due to fast food consumption

More and more American kids and teens have become fast food eaters in recent years. A new study has found that the younger generation has increased their consumption of fast food meals compared to the past. 

Conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the report found that children aged 2 to 11 and teens aged 12 to 19 increased their intake of fast food in the period between 2015 to 2018 (13.8%) compared to the period between 2011 and 2012 (12.4%). 

Between the two age groups, teens (18%) recorded higher intake of fast food calories than kids (11.5%). This means the consumption of fast food in the specified periods increased by age. The report also stated that both non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic adolescents aged 12 to 19 consumed more fast food calories than non-Hispanic white adolescents. 

In terms of sex, there was no significant difference in the intake of fast food calories between boys and girls in the 2 to 11 age group. On the other hand, girls (18.5%) in the 12 to 19 group recorded higher daily intake of fast food meals than boys (14.9%).  

The report used data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that conducts a survey in the country every two years. More recent data is still not available, but the study could be indicative of an inevitable increase in fast food consumption among the youth.

Eliana Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine, told NBC News that with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the figures could have sharply increased as more people now turn to fast food for convenience.

“These are not surprising findings when you think about how strapped families are these days for both time and money, and how fast food can be an easy option for stressed families,” Perrin said. 

Fast food has been linked to obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions in kids, teens, and adults in several past studies. A more recent study published in Pediatric Obesity in February of this year found that fast food also caused preschoolers to become overweight or obese. 

The overweight preschoolers could face increased risk of various health problems, such as diabetes, fatty liver disease and depression later on in life. That’s why the researchers in the Dartmouth-led study advised that fast food exposure to children should be reduced and parents should be encouraged to teach their kids healthier eating habits. 

Fast Food Pictured: In this photo illustration, fast food from a branch of McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Subway and Domino's pizza. Photo: Getty Images/Matt Cardy