Fast Facts About Eating

Friday, June 01, 2007

Benefits of Healthy Eating

  • Healthy eating contributes to overall healthy growth and development, including healthy bones, skin, and energy levels. It also contributes to a lowered risk of dental caries, eating disorders, constipation, malnutrition, and iron deficiency anemia.

Diet and Disease

  • Early indicators of atherosclerosis, the most common cause of heart disease, begin as early as childhood and adolescence. Atherosclerosis is related to high blood cholesterol levels, which are associated with poor dietary habits.

  • Osteoporosis, a disease where bones become fragile and can break easily, is associated with inadequate intake of calcium.

  • Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as adult onset diabetes, has become increasingly prevalent among children and adolescents as rates of overweight and obesity rise in that population.

  • Overweight and obesity, influenced by poor diet and inactivity, are significantly associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, joint problems, and poor health status.

Obesity Among Youth

  • The prevalence of obesity among children 6 to 11 years old has more than doubled in the past 20 years and tripled among adolescents 12 to 19 years old.

  • Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become overweight or obese adults. 

Eating Behaviors of Young People

  • Less than 40 percent of children and adolescents in the United States meet the U.S. dietary guidelines for saturated fat.

  • Almost 80 percent of high school students do not eat fruits and vegetables five or more times per day.

  • Only 39 percent of children 2 to 17 years old meet the USDA’s dietary recommendation for fiber (found primarily in dried beans and peas, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains).

  • Almost 80 percent of adolescent females do not consume enough calcium. During the past 25 years, consumption of milk, the largest source of calcium, has decreased 36 percent among adolescent females. Additionally, from 1978 to 1998, average daily soft drink consumption almost doubled among adolescent females, increasing from 6 oz to 11 oz, and almost tripled among adolescent males, from 7 oz to 19 oz.

  • A large number of high school students use unhealthy methods to lose or maintain weight. A nationwide survey found that during the 30 days preceding the survey, 11.8 percent of students went without eating for 24 hours or more; 4.3 percent had vomited or taken laxatives in order to lose weight; and 5.9 percent had taken diet pills, powders, or liquids without a doctor's advice.

  • Research suggests that not having breakfast can affect children's intellectual performance.

  • The percentage of young people who eat breakfast decreases with age; while 92 percent of children 6 to 11 years old eat breakfast, only 77 percent of adolescents 12 to 19 years old eat the morning meal.

Hunger and food insufficiency in children are associated with poor behavioral and academic functioning.