Pizza Takes a Slice Out of Kids' Health

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pizza Takes a Slice Out of Kids' Health

*The following is excerpted from an online article from HealthDay.

On the days kids eat pizza, they likely take in more calories, fat and sodium than on other days, a new study found.

On any given day in the United States in 2009-10, nearly one in four teens ate pizza for a meal or snack, researchers found.

"Given that pizza remains a highly prevalent part of children's diet, we need to make healthy pizza the norm," said study author Lisa Powell, a professor of health policy and administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Efforts by food producers and restaurants to improve the nutrient content of pizza, in particular by reducing its saturated fat and sodium [salt] content and increasing its whole-grain content, could have quite broad reach in terms of improving children's diets," Powell said.

Pizza's popularity comes largely from being tasty and inexpensive, but it's also because kids have so many opportunities to eat it, said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

"It's constantly being thrust at them," he said. "From school cafeterias to weekly pizza days in schools without cafeterias to birthday parties to group events to pizza night with the parents to pizza fund-raising -- it's difficult to escape," Freedhoff said.

When pizza is consumed, it makes up more than 20 percent of the daily intake of calories, the study authors said. Poor eating habits -- too many calories, too much salt and too much fat -- raise children's risks for nutrition-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, the study authors added in background notes with the study.

Powell's team analyzed data from four U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2003 to 2010. Families of almost 14,000 children and teens, aged 2 to 19, reported what their kids had eaten in the previous 24 hours.

On the days teens at pizza, they took in an extra 230 calories, 5 grams saturated fat and 484 mg sodium.

The findings were reported online Jan. 19 and in the February print issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The only time pizza did not increase kids' daily caloric intake were days they ate it from the school cafeteria. That could mean school pizzas are healthier, or it could mean other school lunches are equally high in calories, Powell said.

Source: HealthDay