As many as half of children who live in urban cities eat fast food meals, along with sugary drinks, twice a week or more, potentially putting themselves at risk of obesity and health problems, new research has found.
About one in 10 city kids visit a fast food outlet every day, according to the study, published in the British Medical Journal.
The researchers’ findings are based on a survey of nearly 200 students – 11 to 14 years old – living in London. They said key factors for the trend include taste, ready access at fast-food outlets and the influence of their peers.
"These children are exposed to an environment that is likely to cause obesity, and it is not surprising that in this situation, many of these children are already overweight or obese, and will likely become obese as adults," the researchers wrote. "Clearly, actions need to be taken to either limit the ability of these children to access fast food outlets or to change to they purchased at these outlets [e.g. less calorie dense, with more fruit and vegetables, with less fat and salt]."
To reach their conclusions, investigators quizzed 193 students living in an inner London borough about their weekly fast food preferences and habits. The children were also weighed and measured to see if their weights were appropriate for their age, gender, and height.
Over half were entitled to free school meals, and 30 percent were overweight or obese. Among the study’s findings:
• 54 percent of the children surveyed said they bought fast food or drinks from a fast food outlet at least twice a week.
• 10 percent consumed products bought from these outlets every day.
• Non-white children were more likely to be frequent consumers of fast foods.
• About 92 percent of the children said they ate fast food because they liked the taste. The second most popular reason was because they could buy fast food products quickly. About 71 percent said cited the influence of their peers – they wanted to join their friends.