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A junk food-rich diet may prove detrimental to the health of children, according to a review of several studies. The most worrisome factor to emerge from the review is that abdominal fat is fast acquiring nightmarish proportions in young children.
Abdominal fat is linked with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fat accumulation in the midline in children is a dangerous sign since it signals that they may fall prey to these lifestyle diseases quite early in adulthood.
Dr Chaoyang Li of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr Stephen Cook of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York analyzed data from several national health surveys for the review. Approximately 22,000 children ages two to nineteen participated in these surveys.
The researchers found that since the 1990s, abdominal fat has increased by more than 65 percent. In 1999, 10.5 percent of boys and girls had too much abdominal fat. In 2004, this number grew to 17.4 percent of boys and 17.8 percent of girls.
"Those increases only grow more alarming as you tease out specific age groups over longer periods of time. For example, between the 1988-1994 data and the 1999-2004 data, the largest relative increase in the prevalence of abdominal obesity occurred among two- to five-year old boys - 84 per cent - and 18- to 19-year-old girls - 126 per cent," Dr Cook commented.
The researchers said that the increasing prevalence in the use of high-fat, high-sugar foods, especially foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, could be "predisposing children not only to become fatter, but disproportionately fat around the middle".
Corn syrup is very rich in glucose. However, it is not as sweet as sucrose and hence is used along with a high intensity sweetener especially in candy bars to ketchup and hamburger buns. Junk foods are basically those that have a disproportionately high portion of sugar and or fat although they can fill up the stomach.
Children these days are exposed to a wide variety of junk foods that lack proper nutrition. In the present review, researchers also found that body mass index (BMI), a weight-to-height ratio increased by 25 percent between 1999 and 2004 in six- to 11-year-old children.
"Kids, teens and adults who have early stages of atherosclerosis in their arteries can have a healthy cardiovascular system again," Dr Cook said. "Older adults who have plaque build-up have a much harder battle, especially if the plaque has calcified."
That is why it is important to watch what kids eat, the researchers added. "The good thing is, we know that in kids [the health effect of abdominal fat] is completely reversible, if we can get them to exercise more and to adjust their diet and adopt a healthy lifestyle," Dr. Cook concluded.
Comment: Junk foods with high fat can carry higher concentrations of pollutants compared to the plant based foods. You can't exercise those toxicants off from the body easily.
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