Fast Food Can Affect Children’s Health
Fast food or junk food refers to any variety of processed foods that are high in energy, due to their abundance of fat and sugar, as well as salt. On the downside, they often lack essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fast food is especially appealing to children due to its taste, price point, and lack of preparation required. Unfortunately, as children often don’t realize the detrimental effects on their health, fast food can become quite addictive for them.
Junk Food’s Negative Aspects
Regular junk food consumption can have long-term health consequences such as obesity, emotional and self-esteem issues, and chronic illnesses in later life. A single fast food meal could add an additional 160-310 kilocalories to teenagers’ daily caloric intake for younger children and teenagers respectively. Vitamins such as A and C, along with minerals like magnesium and calcium, can lead to deficiency diseases, osteoporosis, and dental caries due to inadequate sugar intake. Fast food items often contain hazardous food coloring agents and/or trans fats, complicating matters further. Furthermore, safety issues when preparing these meals add another layer of complexity.
Fast food consumption more than three times a week is associated with an increased likelihood of developing atopic disorders like asthma, eczema or rhinitis; asthma severity is almost 40% greater in teenagers and more than 25% among younger children. Eating junk food 4-6 times a week leads to lower math and reading skills in children compared to those who didn’t consume as much junk food.
An excessive intake of calories, fats, sugars and other carbohydrates during multiple meals can alter a child’s food preferences and decrease their likelihood of eating fiber-rich items such as fruits, milk and vegetables – leading to greater likelihood of constipation.
Eating a lot of fast food as children makes it difficult to incorporate healthier eating habits into adulthood, even if related medical problems are already present. Eating too much fast food makes it unlikely that one’s palate will ever appreciate the simpler and less spicy flavors found in everyday food items.
Fast food can hinder participation in extracurricular activities because it lacks essential nutrients for physical activity. Not only does this keep children away from peer groups, but it also negatively impacts their physical and mental wellbeing.
Obesity can lead to low self-esteem and possibly depression in some children. Even without obesity, some kids who eat junk food are at greater risk for developing depression. Depression negatively impacts growth parameters, academic performance, social relationships – it may even increase suicide risk.
Pop and cola drinks commonly contain caffeine, making bedtime an ordeal by delaying normal sleep-wake cycles.
Essential fatty acids are often missing or lacking from fast foods, including omega 3s and 6s which cannot be produced within the body but are necessary for cell membrane formation as well as high concentrations in both brain and retina. According to some researchers, a lack of these essential nutrients may contribute to increased antisocial behavior and hyperactivity; however further research is necessary to confirm this connection.
Fast food consumption should be strictly limited in children as it does no good and may do much harm. Surprisingly, increased fruit intake has been known to improve moods and reduce atopic diseases’ severity. Another way of helping kids eat better may be stopping junk food marketing with attractive characters and gifts. Another approach would be making healthier food more accessible at reasonable prices with appealing formats.