Kids who love pizza are at risk of consuming an average of 408 additional calories, three additional grams of fat and 134 milligrams of salt compared with their regular diet. For teens eating pizza as a meal, this adds 624 calories, five grams of fat and 484 milligrams of salt, a new study shows.
The analysis, published online Monday by the journal Pediatrics, examines pizza’s contribution to the childhood obesity crisis because it is a widely popular and consumed food. On any given day, 22% of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 consume pizza, the Los Angeles Times reported. (That compares to 14% of toddlers and 13% of Americans overall.) The only foods that are more popular among kids are “grain desserts,” a category that includes cakes, cookies, and donuts.
Health policy researcher Lisa M. Powell of the University of Illinois at Chicago and her colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to analyze pizza’s impact on a child’s diet. Participants in NHANES, a project of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, complete dietary recalls that list all the foods and drinks they consumed in the past 24 hours. Responses from 7,443 children between the ages of 2 and 11 and 6,447 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 were recorded in the new study.
The results revealed that younger children eat 83 calories’ worth of pizza a day and teens eat 143 calories each day, on average. Those amounts were high enough to account for 5% to 7% of total daily calories, respectively.
On days when pizza is eaten, it comprises 22% of children’s calories and 26% of teens’ calories, the researchers discovered.
Those figures reflect pizza consumption in 2009 and 2010. Though high, they were lower than 2003 and 2004. Compared with the earlier period of time, the more recent figures were 25% less for younger children and 16% less for teens, according to the study.
Powell and her colleagues said pizza’s effect on a child’s diet was similar to that of sugary drinks. Pizza “should become a target for counseling for the prevention and treatment of obesity in pediatric practice,” they wrote.