Study finds kids eat too much pizza, too often, and it’s bad for their health

While pizza consumption is lower than it used to be, kids are still eating too much of it, and it’s affecting their health, Roberto A. Ferdman reports for The Washington Post.

The health issues are a result of the extra calories, fat and sodium consumed when children eat too much pizza, too often, according to a study published by the journal Pediatrics from the University of Illinois – Chicago, Ferdman writes.

“When you eat extra calories and don’t compensate for it at another point of the day or week, it can lead to weight gain and even obesity,” William Dietz, one of the study’s authors and the director of the Sumner Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the George Washington University, told Ferdman.

Obesity is a real problem for many of Kentucky’s children. The state is ranked first for high school obesity, eighth for obesity in children aged 10 to 17, and sixth for obesity among 2- to 4- year-olds from low income families, according to the States of Obesity report.

The researchers tracked the diets of more than 11,000 children and teenagers using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that “On any given day, roughly 20 percent of all children aged 2 to 11 and adolescents aged 12 to 19 eat pizza,” Ferdman reports. The younger children eat roughly 400 calories and teens upward of 600 calories on the days they eat pizza, rarely with a healthy side like salad or vegetables.

This boils down to pizza days being associated with “considerably higher” intakes of saturated and sodium, and an extra 84 calories for children and an extra 230 calories for teens.

“There are a bunch of takeaways from the study. But the biggest thing is that parents are serving their kids too much pizza,” Dietz told Ferdman.

It’s cheap. It’s convenient. It’s universally loved. And an estimated 3 billion pizzas are eaten every year in the United States. “What’s to be done?” Ferdman asks.

“We’re not suggesting that kids avoid pizza altogether,”Dietz told Ferdman. “But when parents serve it, it’s important that they understand it’s extremely caloric. They should serve smaller pizzas, or at least smaller slices. They might also want to serve it with vegetables instead of sausage on top.”

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