January 20, 2016
1 min read

Children who choose healthy foods equally likely to eat junk food

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The healthy eating habits of preschool-aged children living in a low-income area were independent of unhealthy food habits, according to recent research in the Maternal and Child Health Journal.

“We hypothesized that children who frequently consumed fruits, vegetables and milk would be less likely to consume sugar-sweetened beverages, fast-food, sweets and salty snacks and that this would be most true among younger children,” Sarah E. Anderson, PhD, of the division of epidemiology at The Ohio State University College of Public Health, and colleagues wrote. “The inverse relationship we hypothesized between children’s frequency of intake of healthy foods and unhealthy foods was not supported by the data from our study.”

Sarah Anderson

Sarah E. Anderson

The researchers collected data from 298 parents of 357 children aged 2 to 5 years living in a low-income region of Columbus, Ohio, between May 2012 and May 2013. Food intake data was gathered via interviews, and questions gauged children’s intake frequency of juices, fruits, vegetables, milk, sugary drinks, fast-food, sweets and salty snacks. Parents responded based on how often their child consumed each food within the past 7 days; answers ranged from none to at least four times daily.

Study data showed there was no evidence to suggest that children who ate fruits, vegetables and milk were any less likely to eat sugary drinks, fast-food, sweets or salty snacks. The researchers said relationship was consistent across all studied age groups.

The researchers also wrote that consumption of juice was correlated with intake of fruits, vegetables, milk, sweets and salty snacks. Juice, however, was not correlated with the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

Anderson and colleagues suggested that these findings may be dependent on the regional, cultural and economic characteristics of families.

“Our study raises a number of questions for future research,” they wrote. “It is possible that the inverse relationship between children’s intake of healthy and unhealthy foods we hypothesized, but did not find in this population, would be observed among high socioeconomic status families.” – by David Costill

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.