Children and fast food: the proposal to limit the obesity epidemic.

Benjamin Kallos, a member of the local council in New York, wants to discipline the kids’ meals served at fast food restaurants. The goal is to regulate more strictly the provision of meals and to do that urged corporations to propose a Happy Meal “healthy” with a fruit, a dish made of vegetables or a serving of whole grains to accompany sandwich. The proposal is included in a bill being examined by the city council.

The idea is to lead the people, especially children, to a more conscious consumption and force the chains to move in confined spaces, rather than impose prohibitions. Despite the guidelines drawn up, by the American Academy of Pediatrics,  that recommend caution with foods high in fat, sugar and salt, the US attorney started to an “softer” approach, that probably will not solve the obesity problem, but that is a further hypothesis being examined in the fight against excess weight. Hence the decision of some researchers at New York University to examine a document published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the possible consequences in terms of public health.

Their work started from the analysis of the energy-backed in 422 purchases, between 2013 and 2014, the same collected and used in a study that appeared in Obesity, in some outlets, such as Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy. Result? At the end of a meal at the US’ fast food, on average, children acquire six hundred kilocalories – 36% of which come from fat, compared to the 25% recommended in a Mediterranean diet – and 869 milligrams of sodium. Over 98% of the meals does not meet the information outlined in the bill examined by the city council. 51% of them exceed the energy limit. 55% of those related to sodium. 78% of the information on fat and 14% on those specific saturated fat.

Based on these considerations, it is the opinion of the scientists, the hypothesis launched by Kallos can come in handy. “The combination of a serving of fruit, vegetables or whole grains to a menu accompanied by a toy can get children to consume even the healthiest foods”. The proposal includes a small adjustment in the composition of the meal: it should not make more than five hundred kilocalories, six hundred milligrams of sodium, and only 35% fat compared to the entire total energy (limit set at 10% for saturated fat).

Experts say these changes would ensure an improvement in the overall quality of meals eaten in fast food restaurants. “These are small steps aimed to make an impact over time on public health” – said Brian Elbel, a professor of population health and health policy at New York University, one of the authors of the research -. “No measure taken on its own is able to eliminate the scourge of childhood obesity. The approval of the bill would be a step in the right direction”.

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