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Children's Health

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Too Few Kids Use Fast-Food Calorie Info: Study

Girls and obese children are likelier to take advantage of this knowledge

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- While some fast-food chains are required to provide calorie and other nutritional information to help customers make informed choices, kids who eat fast food at least twice a week are 50 percent less likely to use this information than kids who eat fast food less often, according to a new U.S. study.

Those most likely to use the calorie information are girls and children who are obese, said the researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study was published online May 23 in the Journal of Public Health.

"Our findings are important given the high prevalence of obesity among youth and the adverse health effects associated with obesity," study lead author Dr. Holly Wethington said in a journal news release. "It is encouraging that a large number of youth, particularly youth who are obese, reported using the calorie information.

"This may have potential to lead to improved food and beverage choices as a way to manage weight, although more research is needed to assess whether youth know how many calories they should consume in a day given their activity level," added Wethington, of the CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity.

Childhood obesity has tripled in recent decades, partly due to fast food that is higher in calories, salt and fat than food prepared at home, the CDC researchers noted. In conducting the study, they analyzed mail surveys from 721 kids ranging in age from 9 to 18 years.

The survey, done in the fall of 2010, asked the children how often they ate fast food, and if they considered the calorie information on the menu. They were also asked if this information influenced their food choices. The researchers also considered the participants' age, gender, height and weight.

Fifty-six percent of those surveyed were boys, and while most of the children were a healthy weight, 13 percent were obese.

The survey revealed that 66 percent of the kids said they ate fast food once a week or less, and 34 percent reported eating fast food two or more times a week.

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