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Teens ate less junk food during the pandemic, study shows

By HealthDay News
After COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, there was a nearly 6% drop in the teens' average consumption of ultra-processed food, and it continued to decline even as social distancing restrictions later eased, a recent study showed. Photo by pastel100/<a href="https://pixabay.com/images/id-3337621/">Pixabay </a>
After COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, there was a nearly 6% drop in the teens' average consumption of ultra-processed food, and it continued to decline even as social distancing restrictions later eased, a recent study showed. Photo by pastel100/Pixabay

Of all the health harms the pandemic brought, new research has uncovered one positive effect: For the first time in 30 years, teens' consumption of junk food fell following school closures, social restrictions and more parents working from home.

The study included 452 participants, aged 13 to 19. It found that after COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, there was a nearly 6% drop in the teens' average consumption of ultra-processed food, and it continued to decline even as social distancing restrictions later eased.

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It's now nearly 14% lower than before the pandemic began, according to the study presented Saturday at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society, held in Georgia. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Ultra-processed foods include products such as energy drinks, potato chips, sugary sodas and candy, and all are widely connected with rising obesity rates among U.S. youngsters.

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Previous research had shown that ultra-processed foods comprise 67% of U.S. teens' diets.

"We found that teenagers' consumption of these foods has decreased significantly during COVID-19," said lead researcher Maria Balhara, from Broward College, in Davie, Fla.

"Further, the decrease has been sustainable and continued its downward trend even after easing pandemic restrictions," Balhara added in a meeting news release.

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The study will eventually include 1,800 participants, and the researchers will assess ultra-processed food consumption in this larger group.

"The early findings of this study provide an encouraging signal and a window of opportunity for strengthening nutritional and behavioral programs aimed at curbing the obesity epidemic," Balhara said.

More information

For more on teen nutrition, go to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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