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Taste trumps calorie labels for teens who eat fast food

By Aimee Keenan-Greene 

It may be more proof teens are consistently making poor food decisions, despite being equiped with the information to make better nutritional choices.

A new study in the International Journal of Obesity says calorie labels make little difference influencing food choices for patrons at McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, results from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are obese.

Among pre-school age children 2-5 years of age, obesity increased from 5 to 10.4% between 1976-1980 and 2007-2008 and from 6.5 to 19.6 percent among 6-11 year olds.  Among adolescents aged 12-19, obesity increased from 5 to 18.1 percent during the same period.

More than a third of kids say they eat fast food almost daily.
 
Approximately 35 percent of adolescents reported consuming fast food six or more times per week.

Researchers say they found  no statistically significant differences in calories purchased before and after labeling.

Fifty-seven percent of New York adolescents reported 'noticing' calorie labels but only 9 percent considered the information when ordering. 

Seventy-two percent of adolescents say taste was the most important factor in their meal selection.

Scientists looked at survey and receipt data from children's and adolescents’ fast-food choice and the influence of calorie labels in low-income communities in New York City (NYC) and in a comparison city (Newark, NJ).  A total of 349 children and adolescents aged 1–17 years who visited the restaurants with their parents (69 percent) or alone (31 percent) before or after labeling was introduced.

In all, 90 percent were from racial or ethnic minority groups.

The CDC says American society has become 'obesogenic,' characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity.

Obese children are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes, than are other children and adolescents.

Obese children and adolescents are more likely to become obese as adults.  For example, the CDC says one study found that approximately 80 percent of children who were overweight at aged 10–15 years were obese adults at age 25 years. Another study found that 25 percent of obese adults were overweight as children. The latter study also found that if overweight begins before 8 years of age, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.

The Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) is working to reduce obesity and obesity-related conditions through training and leadership.
 

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