Food factors affecting children

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Adapted from BMJ 20 Nov 21 Vegan diets have mixed effects on children’s health

Dr Malgorzata Desmond from Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health has studied the effects of a vegan diet in children.

The positive side is that children on vegan diets had less body fat and had a healthier cardiovascular profile but there were also disadvantages.

The vegan children were on average 3cm shorter, had around 5% less bone mineral content and were three times as likely to be deficient in vitamin B12 than meat and dairy eating children.

The findings were from a study of 187 healthy 5 to 10 year olds in Poland. The groups were 63 vegetarians, 52 vegans and 72 meat eaters.

Dr Desmond said that she was also surprised to find that much of the vegan children’s diet came from processed food. She suggests that vegan parents consider giving B12 and Vitamin D supplements to their children.

Adapted from Chang K JAMA Pediatr 14 Jun 2021

Researchers from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Birth Cohort studied children born in the early 1990s from age 7 to 24 years. Three day food and beverage diaries were completed when the children were 7, 10 and 12. Over 17 years BMI, weight, waist circumference and body fat were measured. This is the first study to look at longitudinal associations between ultra processed food intake and health outcomes.

The foods they were looking at included for example: frozen pizzas, mass produced bread, fizzy drinks and ready meals. The groups were split into quintiles for analysis.

The lowest quintile ate 23% of their diet from ultra processed foods and the highest 68%.

The children in the higher consumption groups got fatter quicker. By the age of 24, compared to the lowest ultra processed group, they had a higher BMI by 1.2 kg/m2, higher body fat by 1.5%, were 3.7 kg heavier and had a waist circumference 3.1 cm bigger.

Author Professor Christopher Millet said: We often wonder why obesity rates as so high among UK children and this study gives information why. One in five children are consuming 78% of their calories from ultra processed food.

He suggests that measures to reduce the promotion of these foods and to encourage the eating of normal foods are urgently needed in the UK and globally.

Adapted from Medscape ECO 2021 Parental emotional distress linked to excess weight and fat in offspring 14 May 2021

So are the parents who supply ultra processed food to their children just too overwhelmed to home cook?

Around a third of children in the UK live with at least once parent who experiences significant emotional distress. More than a third of UK children also become overweight or obese by the age of then years.

In the UK Millenium Cohort Study, 19 thousand families born between 2000 to 2002 were tracked. Only two parent households were included in the analysis into parental distress.

Distress in mothers was associated with higher BMIs in girls from the ages of 5 to 14. Distress in fathers was associated with higher BMIs in both girls and boys, compared to undistressed parents.

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