Over a third of U.S. children and adolescents eat fast food daily

NEW YORK (Reuters) - On any given day in the United States, 34.3 percent of children and adolescents are consuming a significant portion of their daily nutrition from fast food restaurants, the National Center for Health Statistics reported on Wednesday.

Martin Nguyen takes a bite of a hot dog at Pink's in Hollywood, California, May 14, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The NCHS said fast food “has been associated with higher caloric intake and poorer diet quality” in the 2-19 age group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites childhood obesity as a serious problem in the United States. It says the level of obesity is holding steady at about 17 percent and affecting about 12.7 million children and adolescents.

More than 12 percent of the children and adolescents surveyed got over 40 percent of their calories from fast food, which was defined as “restaurant fast food/pizza,” according to the data brief from the NCHS, a unit of the CDC.

“It is certainly a significant amount and it would be more concerning if someone were not astonished by that number. It is a sign we have some work to do to help families come up with practical solutions,” said Dr. Esther Krych, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic’s Children’s Center in Rochester, Minnesota.

Kids aged 12-19 consumed twice the average daily percentage of calories from fast food than did younger children, the report said.

The NCHS said the data was extracted from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

The results showed there was no significant difference in how many calories the kids consumed based upon their sex, poverty status or weight status.

The ethnic group with the lowest daily consumption of fast food were non-Hispanic Asian children, at 8 percent. At the other end of the spectrum were non-Hispanic black children at 13.9 percent, followed by non-Hispanic white children at 13.1 percent and Hispanic children at 11.2 percent.

The CDC defines obesity in children as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts.

Reporting By Daniel Bases; Editing by Christian Plumb