Title

Unhealthy Dietary Habits Among Youth Increases Risk for Chronic Disease

Location

Harborside Center East and West

Strand #1

Mental & Physical Health

Strand #2

Family & Community

Relevance

This proposal is directly relevant to strands IV and V, which respectively relate to promotion of physical health and the enhancement of community and parental support for youth. Unhealthy dietary habits include overconsumption of fast foods, which has a direct negative impact on physical health. This can be combatted through intervention regarding fast food at an early age – perhaps at the elementary school level. Learning about the adverse health effects of fast food such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes can greatly benefit youth in the long run.

Brief Program Description

Overconsumption of fast food results in excessive calorie intake, contributing to obesity. American families, particularly those with low-income often rely on fast food as an inexpensive way to feed the entire family. However, we must educate youth on health issues associated with chronic fast food consumption. Parents and community members should encourage children to eat healthily and prepare nutritional meals at home.

Summary

Obesity is an epidemic and major public health challenge in America today. Fast food is a major culprit in causing obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and cholesterol among today’s youth. Most fast food options are low in nutrients and simply provide empty calories, and yet they have long been a staple in the American diet. In order to increase shelf life of these products, food additives such as monosodium glutamate, hydrogenated fats, artificial preservatives and stabilizers have been added to these foods. In the past few years, it seems as though many restaurants are turning towards healthier options by even displaying the caloric values of foods on their menus. However, as recently as 2010, it was found that less than 1% of kids’ meals meet recommended nutritional standards. Fast food is often chosen as a quick and inexpensive means of eating, particularly among college students. In a survey conducted on sophomores in a college setting, 45.5% reported eating fast food 1-2 days per week and 34.8% reported eating out 3-4 days a week. Despite these students’ frequent consumption of fast food, a surprising 63.6% perceived their diets to be “healthy”. However, based on reported studies, eating fast food just twice a week can cause lifelong health problems and lead to obesity. Young adults clearly do not understand how detrimental fast food is to their health, and thus need nutrition education that promotes positive dietary behaviors. Changes must be made to focus on a healthy diet at a very early age in the school setting itself. Through a mandatory nutrition program for all elementary age students, teachers can distribute information about the most popular fast food places and describe their many dangers in detail. Also, parents should be encouraged not to take their children to convenient fast food eateries and instead make meal preparation a family effort. This can be a great time to communicate and teach children life-long healthy habits.

Evidence

Researchers have been able to show a strong correlation between fast food and obesity. Most fast food options are high in calories, sugar, and fats, and very low in vitamins and minerals. Thus, avoiding such foods, even once or twice a week, can go a long way in reducing risk for chronic disease. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act supported by Michelle Obama has paved the way for healthier eating for American children within schools. These ideals should be extended beyond school settings to the home through a campaign to decrease fast food consumption.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Supriya Immaneni is a junior at Northwestern University in the seven-year BS/MD Honors Program of Medical Education. She is majoring in Psychology with an anticipated graduation year of 2015, and has received acceptance to Feinberg School of Medicine. She has presented one poster at the 2014 National Youth at Risk Conference.

Dr. Padmini Shankar, PhD, RD., is an Associate Professor of Nutrition and Food Science at Georgia Southern University and a registered dietitian.

Keyword Descriptors

Obesity, Fast Food, Chronic Disease, Hypertension, Nutrition

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-3-2015 4:00 PM

End Date

3-3-2015 5:30 PM

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Mar 3rd, 4:00 PM Mar 3rd, 5:30 PM

Unhealthy Dietary Habits Among Youth Increases Risk for Chronic Disease

Harborside Center East and West

Overconsumption of fast food results in excessive calorie intake, contributing to obesity. American families, particularly those with low-income often rely on fast food as an inexpensive way to feed the entire family. However, we must educate youth on health issues associated with chronic fast food consumption. Parents and community members should encourage children to eat healthily and prepare nutritional meals at home.