How Junk Food Affects Children
Junk food can be appealing for a variety of reasons, including convenience, price and taste. For children, who do not always understand the health consequences of their eating habits, junk food may appear especially appetizing. However, regularly consuming fattening junk food can be addictive for children and lead to complications like obesity, chronic illness, low self-esteem and even depression, as well as affecting how they perform in school and extracurricular activities.
Energy and Focus
According to the Women’s and Children’s Health Network, diet has a significant effect on children’s study habits. Junk food and foods with high sugar content deplete energy levels and the ability to concentrate for extended periods of time. Energy and focus are especially crucial for school-age children. Children set the foundation for lifelong habits in their youth, making junk food particularly hazardous to their well-rounded development. Physical activity is also essential for children of all ages, and regularly eating junk food does not provide the necessary nutrients children need for sufficient energy to engage in physical activity. A lack of physical activity is harmful to physical and mental well being and may also exclude a child from critical social development.
A study published in “Pediatrics” in 2004 found fast-food consumption in children was linked with many dangerous precursors for obesity. According to this study, kids who ate fast food were more likely to consume a higher amount of calories, fat, carbohydrates and added sugars in one fast food meal. They were also less likely to consume as much fiber, milk and fruits and vegetables as children who did not eat fast food. Children who consumed more fattening foods while eating fast food were also likely, in general, to eat more unhealthy foods at other meals. According to a statement released by the journal “Nature Neuroscience” in 2010, high-calorie food can be addictive, causing children who occasionally eat fast food to learn problematic patterns of eating. These factors were found to place children who regularly ate fast food at increased risk for obesity.
According to the Prevention Institute, experts blame junk food for rising rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. Increasing rates of chronic illness affect children who regularly consume junk food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts if current trends continue, one in three U.S. adults will have diabetes by the year 2050. Diabetes can result in disability and premature death. The Center for Food Safety noted in 2012 that obese children are also more likely to develop high cholesterol and heart disease later in life. According to the Women’s and Children’s Health Network, changes can happen in children’s bodies even when they’re young that are associated with disease at a more advanced age.
Self-Esteem and Depression
Self-esteem and confidence in oneself are especially important to growing children, and regularly consuming junk food can negatively impact this sense of self. According to “Kids Health Club” magazine, junk food can affect a child’s physical development in detrimental ways, including unhealthy weight gain, which can result in self-esteem problems. Low self-esteem can lead to consequences like depression. Nutritionists at MayoClinic.com also report eating junk food can potentially cause depression on its own. According to the journal “American Family Physician,” depression -- which can be very dangerous for children -- has negative impacts on growth and development, performance in school and social relationships and can ultimately lead to suicide.
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