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New factor in teen obesity: Parents
Date:2/9/2009

There may be a reason teenagers eat more burgers and fries than fruits and vegetables: their parents.

In a new policy brief released today by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, researchers found that adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day if their parents do. Contrarily, teens whose parents eat fast food or drink soda are more likely to do the same.

Every day, more than 2 million California adolescents (62 percent) drink soda and 1.4 million (43 percent) eat fast food, but only 38 percent eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, according to the policy brief, "Teen Dietary Habits Related to Those of Parents."

The cause of the deficit of healthy foods in teen diets has been attributed in part to the high concentration of fast food restaurants in certain cities and neighborhoods and other environmental factors.

The new research is a reminder, however, that "good dietary habits start at home," according to center research scientist Susan H. Babey, a co-author of the policy brief. "If parents are eating poorly, chances are their kids are too."

Nearly one-third (30 percent) of California's teenagers are overweight or obese. Poor dietary habits, along with environmental and other factors, are strongly linked to obesity.

The policy brief, which was funded by a grant from the California Endowment, drew upon the responses of thousands of California teenagers queried by the center-administered California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation's largest state health survey. Among the brief's findings:

  • Teens whose parents drink soda every day are nearly 40 percent more likely to drink soda every day themselves than teens whose parents do not drink soda.
  • Teens whose parents eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily are 16 percent more likely to do the same than teens whose parents do not eat five servings
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Contact: Gwen Driscoll
gdriscoll@ucla.edu
310-794-0930
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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