A study shows that American kids are eating themselves toward early heart disease.
The study, published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, looked at a nationally representative group of children and found that “American kids eat too much sugar and salt, they don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, and far too many are overweight,” , Maggie Fox reports for NBC News. And of the 8,900 children aged 2 to 11 surveyed, “most were not meeting the goal on three out of four measures of healthy living.”
“Our findings indicate that, in general, children start with pretty good blood pressure,” Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who oversaw the study, told Fox.
“But if they have a horrible diet, it will drive a worsening body mass index and cholesterol levels.”
The research found that fewer than 1 percent of the children in the study had four or five of the main components of a healthy diet; only 3 percent of boys and 2 percent of girls ate enough whole grains daily; more than half of the children drank too much sugar-sweetened beverages; and fewer than 10 percent ate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. The study also found that 30 percent of the children surveyed were overweight or obese, Fox reports.
This poor diet could “put many on the road to heart disease,” Fox writes.
And Kentucky’s children, who rank eighth in the nation for child obesity, are likely walking down this road to poor health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2013 State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables found that only 50 percent of Kentucky adolescents reported eating fruit and 43 percent reported eating vegetables with a median intake of one time per day for both.
As for sugar-sweetened beverages, the 2013 Kentucky High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that in the seven days prior to the the survey: 33 percent of high school students drank a sugared soda one or more times a day; 25 percent drank a sugared soda two or more times per day; and 15 percent drank a sugared soda three or more times per day.
“It seems that children in the United States are losing their ideal cardiovascular health status,” the researchers wrote, Fox reports. The study found about “40 percent of the kids already had poor to worrying cholesterol levels.”
The main components of a healthy diet, according to the study, are: 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.
NBC has previously reported that many studies have found that children who have risk factors for heart disease show signs of clogged arteries that are typically found in middle-aged adults.
But another study found that that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fats and low on fatty meat “dramatically cuts the risk of heart disease and stroke,” Fox writes.