For once, there may be some good news in America’s ongoing battle with the bulge: according to a new report, between 2003 and 2010 the number of kids eating fast food actually went down.
The report, which was led by Tufts University professor Colin D. Rehm, found that the number of American children eating fast food on any given day went down between 2003 and 2010. Rehm’s team also found that kids’ total caloric intake declined during that time.
The report is based on an examination of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which showed that almost 39-percent of American kids ate fast food on a daily basis in the year 2003. Fast forward seven years and only 33-percent of kids (or about one in three) were eating fast food that frequently.
The report also shows that kids were less likely to visit burger, pizza, and chicken fast food restaurants in 2010 when compared to 2003.
So, what’s causing the decline?
Rehm says it’s probably not related to menu labeling, or the listing of fat and calorie information. That’s because such information wasn’t widely available until about 2010, and it’s unlikely that emerging trend had an immediate impact on overall consumption of fast food.
Katherine Bauer, who works at the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Philadelphia’s Temple University, says this new trend reflects a similar one involving adults. “Given that fast food intake appears to be declining among adults, it’s not surprising that we’d see a similar trend in children,” Bauer said.
As for the cause of the decline, Bauer admits she and many other researchers remain stumped. “From this paper alone I don’t feel we’re able to say that kids are getting healthier, because we don’t know what, if anything, they’re substituting for their fast food meals and snacks,” she said. “If children are substituting the calories from fast food for the same number of calories and quality of food from another type of restaurant, then they’re no better off.”