Eat, drink and be merry? Study says junk food makes kids fatter, but happier

Apr 14, 2009

Fast food and soft drinks may be making children fatter but they also make them happy. Programs aimed at tackling childhood obesity, by reducing children's consumption of unhealthy food and drink, are likely to be more effective if they also actively seek to keep children happy in other ways, according to Professor Hung-Hao Chang from National Taiwan University and Professor Rodolfo Nayga from the University of Arkansas in the US. Their findings are published in Springer's Journal of Happiness Studies.

Childhood obesity is a major public health issue worldwide. It is well accepted that unhealthy eating patterns are partly responsible for the increase in . However, very little is known about the relationship between fast food and soft drink consumption and children's happiness.

For the first time, Chang and Nayga looked at the relationship between unhealthy dietary habits and children's psychological health. In particular, they studied the effects of fast food and soft drink consumption on children's and unhappiness. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey in Taiwan - a nationwide survey carried out in 2001 - the authors looked at the fast food and soft drink consumption, body weight and level of happiness of 2,366 children aged between 2 and 12 years old. Fast food included French fries, pizza and hamburgers; soft drinks included soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

A quarter of the children in the survey sample were overweight or obese and approximately 19 percent sometimes or often felt unhappy, sad or depressed. The study's key finding was that children who ate fast food and drank soft drinks were more likely to be overweight, but they were also less likely to be unhappy. The authors' analysis also highlighted a number of factors influencing children's body weight, eating patterns and happiness. For example, mothers' consumption of fast food and soft drinks predicted her child's eating habits. Those children who ate fast food were more likely to also consume soft drinks. from lower income households were more likely to have unhealthy and be overweight or obese.

The authors conclude: "Our findings suggest that consumption of and can result in a trade-off between children's objective (i.e. obesity) and subjective (i.e. unhappiness) well-being. Policies and programs that aim to improve children's overall health should take these effects on children's objective and subjective well-being into account to facilitate the reduction in childhood obesity without sacrificing children's degree of happiness."

Source: Springer

Explore further: Ice bath after exercise? The benefits might be in your head

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Soft drinks alone do not affect children's weight

Sep 11, 2007

Soft drink consumption has increased in both the USA and the UK over the years and this has often been blamed for a rise in childhood body mass index (BMI). However, many of the review methodologies investigating the alleged ...

Reducing kids' salt intake may lower soft drink consumption

Feb 20, 2008

Children who eat less salt drink fewer sugar-sweetened soft drinks and may significantly lower their risks for obesity, elevated blood pressure and later-in-life heart attack and stroke, researchers reported in the print ...

Recommended for you

Testosterone testing has increased in recent years

9 hours ago

(HealthDay)—There has been a recent increase in the rate of testosterone testing, with more testing seen in men with comorbidities associated with hypogonadism, according to research published online Nov. ...

AMA: Hospital staff should consider impact of CMS rule

18 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Hospital medical staff members need to consider the impact of a final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that revised the conditions of participation for hospitals ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.