Last Thursday, we reported on a troubling story. A three-year-old girl from Texas had become the youngest person ever to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Now this. A study conducted by the National Centre for Health Statistics finds that American kids get 12 per cent of their calories from fast food. And generally speaking, whenever we see crazy headlines about fast food consumption in the US, the UK isn’t far behind.


The study broke down fast food consumption among under-18s into age groups. Between the ages of two and 11, kids get 8.7 per cent of their calories from fast food. For 12-19-year-olds, the figure is 16.9 per cent. That makes an average of 12.4 per cent.

That’s roughly equivalent to a small hamburger every day.

Why are kids eating so much fast food?

Lots of reasons. The causes are dense and tangled.

Sandra Hassink, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has a few ideas:

“It’s very well-advertised, and the marketing is working.”

We’re seeing a lot more children with traditionally “grown up” health problems, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Hassink isn’t surprised.

“Childhood doesn’t buffer you against these diseases. Childhood is not a place where you can say, ‘Let everyone eat what they want and we can fix it later.'”

It’s hard to disagree. We have an unregulated food industry that spends billions aggressively advertising its products. There’s not a lot the average person can do. Some people have been shrieking that the three-year-old’s parents are guilty of child abuse, but that’s hardly fair. Surely this is a problem with society?

What now?

Hopefully the UK can learn from these findings. We’re never far behind the US in unhealthy eating habits.

We could sort out the fact that processed food is getting cheaper and healthy food more expensive. Government subsidies for fruit and veg has been suggested. Or we could tax unhealthy products. Regulating food industry advertising and sugar content has been suggested too.

Oh, and there is a little bit of good news. The three-year-old reversed her type 2 diabetes after being given metformin, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of exercise. Let’s hope it’s just a one-off.

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