Regular take-out meals linked to higher body fat and cholesterol in kids

January 2, 2018 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Regular take-out meals linked to higher body fat and cholesterol in kids

Children who eat restaurant carry-out meals once a week or more tend to have extra body fat and long-term risk factors for heart disease, suggests a UK study. 

In the study of 9- and 10-year-olds, the kids who ate carry-out most often also consumed more calories but fewer vitamins and minerals compared with kids who rarely or never ate carry-out food.

The researchers feel that frequent consumption of takeaway foods could be increasing a child’s risk of future coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes by increasing LDL cholesterol and body fat.

In adults, regular consumption of carry-out meals is associated with higher risk of obesity, coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but little is known about the effects it may be having on children’s health.

About the study

The researchers analyzed data from the Child Heart and Health Study in England, which looked at potential risk factors for heart disease and diabetes in pre-teens. Participants included about 2,000 kids aged 9 and 10 years at 85 primary schools in three cities: London, Birmingham and Leicester. 

The children answered questions about their usual diets, including how often they ate carry-out meals purchased from restaurants. Foods purchased at convenience stores or grocery stores were not included in the category. Photos of common foods were provided to help the kids recall and estimate portion sizes. 

About one quarter of the children said they never or rarely ate carry-out meals and nearly half said they ate carry-out less than once per week. Just over one quarter said they ate these kinds of meals at least once per week. 

Boys were more frequent consumers of carry-out meals than girls, as were children from less affluent backgrounds. 

Take-out at least once weekly means more calories and fat, less protein, vitamins

The study team used the kids’ dietary responses to calculate calorie counts and nutrient intake. Among regular consumers of carry-out meals, the foods eaten were higher-calorie and higher-fat, while protein and starch intake was lower and intake of vitamin C, iron, calcium and folate was also lower compared with kids who didn’t eat these types of meals. 

That’s not surprising since fast food tends to have low nutritional value.

Regular take-out tied to more body fat, bad cholesterol

Researchers also measured the children’s height, weight, waist circumference, skinfold thickness and body-fat composition. In addition, they measured blood pressure and took blood samples for cholesterol levels. 

There were no differences in blood pressure or how well the kids’ bodies used insulin based on who regularly ate carry-out meals. But skinfold thickness, body fat composition and LDL (bad) cholesterol all tended to be higher in regular consumers of carry-out meals. 

It’s recommended that parents who need to bring home a meal, call the restaurant in advance to order salads, vegetables, brown rice, grilled meats and to provide a healthier meal for their children. 

If the price is a deterrent, cut portions in half and get two meals out of one large one.

Source: Archives of Disease in Childhood, online December 3, 2017.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.