Takeout Food May Increase Adverse Health Consequences in Children

Someone holding takeaway food on a city street
Someone holding takeaway food on a city street
Efforts to reduce takeaway meal consumption in children could have both short-term and long-term health benefits.

Children who regularly consume takeout meals from fast food restaurants are more likely to have unhealthy dietary nutrient intake patterns and may be at greater risk for the adverse consequences of obesity and coronary heart disease, according to a cross-sectional observational study published in the Archives of Disease in Children.

Using data collected between 2006 and 2007 from 85 primary schools in England, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and dietary nutrient intakes of 1948 children aged 9 to 10 years.

Overall, 555 (28%) children consumed 1 or more takeout meals per week, 894 (46%) consumed fewer than 1 per week, and 499 (26%) never or hardly ever consumed takeout meals. Boys reported consuming more takeout meals than girls (P =.001), and children of lower socioeconomic status consumed takeout meals more often than those from higher socioeconomic groups (P =.008).

Fat mass index, sum of skinfolds, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were all significantly greater in children who consumed more takeout meals (P trend =.3, .05, .04, and .01, respectively).

Compared with children who never or hardly ever consumed takeout meals, total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were 0.09 and 0.10 mmol/L higher, respectively, in children who reported consuming 1 or more takeout meals per week. Greater consumption frequency of takeout meals was also associated with higher mean intakes of total energy, energy density, total fat, and saturated fat and lower intakes of starch, protein, and micronutrients including vitamin C, iron, calcium, and folate.

Takeout food consumption is increasing, and previous observations have suggested its effect on adults related to poorer diet quality, increased adiposity, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease. “These results suggest that further increases in takeaway meal consumption (and marketing directed at encouraging such increases) are likely to have adverse public health consequences and should be actively discouraged,” the investigators concluded.

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Donin AS, Nightingale CM, Owen CG, Rudnicka AR, Cook DG, Whincup PH. Takeaway meal consumption and risk markers for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity in children aged 9-10 years: a cross-sectional study [published online December 3, 2017]. Arch Dis Child. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2017-312981