A new study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is shattering widely held beliefs that fast food and other unhealthy foods are to blame for the dramatic rise in obesity rates.
The study entitled, "The Association of Fast Food Consumption with Poor Dietary Outcomes and Obesity Among Children: is it The Fast Food of the Remainder of the Diet?" was conducted by Barry Popkin, a Professor of Nutrition at UNC's Gillings School of Public Health and was recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study examined the dietary intake of 4,466 children between the ages of 2 and 18 and found the main issue in regards to obesity is the formation of poor dietary habits observed and developed in the home.
"The study presented strong evidence that the children's diet beyond fast- food consumption is more strongly linked to poor nutrition and obesity," wrote Jennifer Poti, doctoral candidate and co-author of the study. "While reducing fast-food intake is important, the rest of a child's diet should not be overlooked."
Poor eating patterns can include drinking drinks with a high sugar content in place of water as well as eating processed foods as opposed to primarily eating fruits and vegetables.
"This is really what is driving children's obesity," Popkin said of the study. "Eating fast foods is just one behavior that results from those bad habits. Just because children who eat more fast food are the most likely to become obese does not prove that calories from fast foods bear the brunt of the blame."
Popkin stressed that enforcing and promoting healthy eating habits when children are young will lead them to make healthier dietary decisions when they get older.
"Children who rely on fast foods may tend to have parents who do not have the means, desire or time to purchase or prepare healthy foods at home," Popkin said
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that obesity rates have more than doubled in Children and more than tripled in adolescents in the last 30 years.