Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Unhealthy eating habits put kids at a higher risk of becoming alcoholics early in life, new research says.
Diet even has a stronger impact on teens than parental education and household income, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
"We must make people more aware of the long-term effects of healthy food in early youth," Lauren Lissner, professor of epidemiology at University of Gothenburg in Sweden and study author, said in a news release.
Researchers in Europe studied the eating habits of more than 2,200 children starting between ages 6 and 9, then later caught up with the kids between ages 11 and 16.
"We've done analyses that break down the correlations, and the strongest association we see is the one between the younger children's diet and their alcohol consumption when they get older. What drives this association is undoubtedly this early influence," Kirsten Mehlig, associate professor of epidemiology at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg and study lead author, said in a news release.
Among the group between ages 11 and 16, 7 percent reported high sugar intake and 3 percent reported weekly alcohol consumption.
The researchers say in the study: "The association was not explained by parental income and education, strict parenting style or child's health-related quality of life and was only partly mediated by sustained consumption of sugar and fat into adolescence."
Though the scientists don't think kids eliminate fat from their diets, they do caution them from eating sugar, saturated and trans fats. They also want tighter regulations on advertising unhealthy food.
"It's important not only for the avoidance of caries [tooth decay], obesity and diabetes. There are a great many other advantages of children getting healthy food," Lissner said.