Nearly half of the calories consumed by the average US child are empty junk food calories, according to a study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Researchers evaluated the diets of children aged two to 18 using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that the average child consumes 2,200 calories per day, more than that recommended for an adult woman. An astonishing 40 percent of these calories come from added sugars (365 calories) or solid fats (433 calories).
The top sources of overall calories were grain deserts, providing 138 calories per day; pizza, providing 136; and soda, providing 118 calories per day. Fruit juices supplied another 56 calories from sugar each day.
Beyond contributing to obesity and all its related health problems, high consumption of empty calories can also produce another serious health problem: malnutrition in the form of nutrient deficiency.
“Some people ask, ‘How can we be malnourished if we’re eating so much that we’re all overweight?’ ” writes Mike Adams in his book The Seven Laws of Nutrition.
“The answer is simple. We’re eating empty calories,” Adams writes. “We’re eating plenty of food if you just count the calories, but not nearly enough of the right kinds of foods that provide nutrition in the form of phytonutrients, minerals, enzymes, healthy oils, vitamins, and other important nutrients. ”
Mary Story of the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the study, said the results were “alarming” but not surprising.
“If you go to convenience stores or corner stores that are close to schools, [these foods] are really cheap and plentiful,” she said. “We should not be surprised by this — we should be outraged.”