Study: US Kids’ Eating Habits Put Them at Risk for Heart Disease


A new study shows that American children eat too much sugar and salt, do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, and that too many are overweight.

Parents probably already know this to be true, but researchers were extremely concerned by the result, says NBC News’ Maggie Fox. In fact, scientists say these kids are on the path to early heart disease. Of the 8,900 children ages 2 to 11, who were surveyed, none were doing everything right and most were missing the mark on three out of four targets.

“Our findings indicate that, in general, children start with pretty good blood pressure,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who oversaw the study.

“But if they have a horrible diet, it will drive a worsening body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol levels.”

The goals being measured were: eating four and a half cups or more of fruits and vegetables each day; three servings of whole grains a day; two servings of fish a week; minimal amounts of sugar; and below 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.

3% of boys ate enough whole grains a day compared to 2% of girls. Over 50% of the kids consumed more than the recommended amount of sugar-sweetened drinks, according to the researchers.

Less than 10% ate the recommended fruit and vegetable amounts and 30% were overweight or obese, reported Lloyd-Jones. Approximately 40% of the kids had cholesterol levels that concerned the research group.

“These findings may mean more children will face a future that will include heart disease if nothing changes,” said Dr. Sarah Samaan, a cardiologist at Legacy Heart Center in Plano, Texas.

Tara Haelle, writing for US News and World Report, says the other three components of the survey were blood pressure, total cholesterol and body mass index (BMI). Approximately 90% of the children had healthy blood pressure, but only 60% of children had healthy cholesterol levels.

Lloyd-Jones says that parents and communities need to make serious efforts to maintain heart health by establishing healthy eating habits in our children right from birth. Samaan added since many adults grew up in households where healthy eating was not a priority, effort will be required, along with education, to help children thrive.

Yahoo Health’s Amanda Chan writes that factors like environment, financial circumstances, and the family into which a child is born can influence lifestyle choices. Helping a child have the best heart health is imperative if the child is to have a healthy heart later in life. For the most part, when a child has problems with weight during his first years, he will have problems with weight in adulthood.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 610,000 people in the US die of heart disease annually, or about one in every four deaths. Nina Lincoff of HealthlineNews shares a quote from Lloyd-Jones:

“It seems to me that the takeaway for parents, physicians, teachers, and for our society as a whole is that we must make every effort to preserve cardiovascular health by establishing healthy habits in our kids right from the start. This includes providing access and encouraging eating a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, with lean proteins and limited processed foods and starches. It also means making sure children establish a pattern of physical activity.”

03 22, 2015
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