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CDC: One-third of U.S. children, adolescents eat fast food every day

CDC data shows teenagers are consuming more fast food than ever. Photo by jp26jp/Pixabay
CDC data shows teenagers are consuming more fast food than ever. Photo by jp26jp/Pixabay

Aug. 14 (UPI) -- More than one-third of children and adolescents across the United States eat fast food each day, according to new figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2018, 36% of young people ate fast food every day, an increase from 34% in 2011, researchers said.

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Up to 14% of young people obtained 25% to 45% of their daily calories from fast food - up from just over 12% in 2011, agency researchers said.

The percentage is higher for Black children, at 17%, and Hispanic children, at 15%, than White children, at 13%, highlighting racial disparities in access to healthy food choices, they said.

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"This data reflects what is known about inequities experienced by Black and Latino populations," Vicki Collie-Akers, an associate professor of population health at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, told UPI. She was not involved in the CDC analysis.

"Low-income, Black, and Latino populations are more likely to live in food deserts where healthy foods are farther away and thus harder to access," Collie-Akers said.

Research has shows a higher density of fast food restaurants in neighborhoods with higher Black and Latino populations, according to Collie-Akers, who has studied food access issues in the United States.

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The CDC findings are based on an analysis of data on the eating habits of children and adolescents age 2 to 19 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 2003 to 2018.

In 2018, more than 11% of young people obtained more than 45% of their daily calories from fast food, the data shows.

Girls and young women obtained roughly 15% of their daily calories from fast food, while boys obtained less than 13%.

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Racial disparities were particularly pronounced in teens, with Black adolescents age 12 to 19 obtaining 22% of their daily calories from fast food, compared to 19% for Hispanic people and 15% for White young people, the CDC said.

Fast food has been associated with increased intake of calories, fat and sodium, higher levels of which have been linked to a range of medical conditions.

The data indicate that many communities of color lack "access to supermarkets and grocery stores -- places where healthy foods can be purchased" but have more options for "fast food restaurants, where it is more likely that high-calorie, low-nutrient will be purchased," Collie-Akers said.

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