Americans love their junk food—from drive-thru double cheeseburgers and super-sized fries to the millions of sugary processed “food” items lining our grocery store shelves. But just how is that obsession affecting our health? And what can we do about it? Two new studies offer insight (and a little hope) into our love affair with unhealthy food.
Too Much Fast Food Causing Kids to Suffer in School
Researchers from Ohio State University recently looked at fast food consumption in fifth through eighth graders to determine whether or not an unhealthy diet affects academic achievement. After analyzing the records of nearly 12,000 school-age kids, they found that those who ate the most fast food (at least one meal daily) saw slower academic growth in key areas such as math, reading and science when compared with students who did not eat fast food.
Study authors speculate that children who eat fast food on a regular basis may not be getting the proper nutrients necessary for optimal cognitive development. They caution parents that obesity is not the only health issue we need to worry about when it comes to poor diet, and point out that previous studies have linked poor diet to impaired memory and learning skills.
Good News: Consumers Eating Fewer Processed Foods
On a more positive note, a new study out of the University of North Carolina shows U.S. consumers are buying fewer pre-packaged baked goods than ever before. After analyzing buying trends over a 7-year period ending in 2012, they found that sales of food items including cookies, cakes, doughnuts, pastries and other items high in sugar and unhealthy fats decreased by 24 percent. This is a significant drop, according to lead author Dr. Kevin Mathias, and a positive indication that American consumers may be paying more attention to the nutritional value of their food and its impact on their overall health.