There is a strong link between the amount of fast food that pre-school age children consume and their likelihood of becoming overweight or obese, according to a new study.
The Dartmouth-led study, published in the journal of Pediatric Obesity said that kids who set forward on the path of weight gain at such a young age have a higher risk of carrying it on to adulthood.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 25 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 5 years are overweight or obese in the US.
“We now know from our studies and others, that kids who start on the path of extra weight gain during this really important time frame tend to carry it forward into adolescence and adulthood, and this sets them up for major health consequences as they get older,” said author of the study Jennifer Emond.
Previous research has shown that fast-food intake is common among children with about one-third of children in the US consuming fast food daily.
It has previously been suggested that there is an association between fast food consumption and children becoming overweight or obese later in life.
But it hasn’t been clear whether eating fast food independently contributes to excess weight gain at such a young age until now.
In an effort to make this determination, the investigators followed a cohort of more than 500 play-school age children (ages 3 to 5) and their families for a year.
The height and weight of the children were measured at the beginning and end of the study and parents reported their children’s fast-food intake weekly.
The researchers found that at the beginning of the study, about 18 percent of the children were overweight and nearly 10 percent were obese and 8 per cent of children transitioned to a greater weight status over the year.
“To our knowledge, ours is the first study to follow a cohort over time and to show that fast food, by itself, uniquely contributes to weight gain,” told Jennifer.
“Unlike with past research, we were able to adjust for other factors such as exercise and screen time that could possibly explain away this relationship,” she added.
However, as the study was based on children in America, we don’t yet have information on the impact of fast-food intake on Irish children.