How well can your child identify those golden arches on the roadside? A new study has found that kids who are easily able to identify popular fast-food products are the ones who are most likely to be obese.
For the studies, researchers asked boys and girls ages 3-5 to make collages from logos and pictures associated with fast-food restaurants and brand-name breakfast cereals, candy, chips and carbonated soft drinks. The kids had to sort the images by food type and brand. The study looked for more than just recognition of logos and attempted to assess each child's deeper understanding of these brands that could only be attained by eating them or shopping for them. They also sussed out which brands the kids recognized solely from commercials and which they recognized because they had eaten them.
Researchers found that a young child's recognition and knowledge of packaged and processed foods and fast foods was associated with that child having a higher BMI, or body mass index.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oregon, Michigan State University, and Ann Arbor Public Schools Preschool and Family Center, found that the eating patterns families establish in their child's early years will likely stick with those kids throughout their lives.
It's interesting for several reasons — not the least of which is that to date, much of the conversation about childhood obesity has centered on school-aged children. But this study shows that for many school-aged children, eating patterns may already be clearly established before those kids even start kindergarten.
The good news is that the latest data show that childhood obesity numbers are on the decline, so whatever families, schools, and policy makers have been doing to reverse the trend seems to be working.
The not-so-good news is that this study shows that those efforts may be underway too late in a child's life. And maybe policymakers, pediatricians, and health experts need to focus on a child's nutrition in her earliest years so that efforts won't need to be made to "reverse" her eating habits once she gets to school.
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