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American Teens are Eating Healthier Diets, Study Says

Update Date: Feb 10, 2016 11:44 AM EST

New data suggest that American teenagers are eating better today than they did in the past.

According to a new study, teenagers have experienced a reduced severity of metabolic syndrome, which is most likely due to the fact that they are following healthier diets. Metabolic syndrome is a group of health conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) high blood sugar and high cholesterol that can increase one's risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

For this research, the team analyzed survey answers from 5,117 participants between the ages of 12 and 19 gathered from 1999 to 2012. Roughly 10 percent of the sample had metabolic syndrome.

In terms of eating habits, teens have reduced their intake of calories and carbohydrates, and have increased their consumption of unsaturated fats, which are good for the body. These eating trends were linked to reducing the severity of metabolic syndrome based on one factor: cholesterol. The researchers found that teenagers had increased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is considered to be "good" cholesterol, and reduced their levels of triglycerides.

"We found that the decrease in severity of the metabolic syndrome was driven by favorable changes in triglycerides and HDL cholesterol," senior author of the study, Dr. Mark DeBoer of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said to FOX News. "This supports the important idea that changes to your lifestyle choices are the key to improving cardiovascular risk status."

"It seems like maybe we're at a turning point," Penny Kris-Etherton, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition at Penn State University, added reported by WebMD. "It might take a while to see statistically significant decreases in metabolic syndrome in adolescents, but it seems we're seeing some of the benefits now that will hopefully continue to have an impact."

Kris-Etherton was not a part of the study.

The prevalence rate of metabolic syndrome throughout the study period, however, did not change. The researchers also did not find any changes in the participants' blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and physical activity levels.

The researchers noted that they could not prove that eating better will definitely reduce severity of metabolic syndrome. Even though no cause-and-effect relationship was found, epidemiology researcher Benjamin Guinhouya, who was not involved with the study, believes that parents should still keep a watchful eye on their children's eating habits and risk or severity of metabolic syndrome.

"Efforts should be carried out to keep the waist circumference of children to less than half their height," Guinhouya said in an email to FOX News. "This can be done through continuing to watch the eating choices of children together with encouragement and promotion of an active lifestyle and a reduction of sedentary pastimes."

The study was published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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