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60 Percent of Very Young Children Fed Fast Food Regularly

Update Date: Nov 26, 2013 12:36 PM EST

A new study reveals that a surprising large percentage of very young children eat fast food on a regular basis.

Researchers found that 60 percent of all children between the ages of two and five ate fast food at least once a week.

The study also found that at least 70 percent of Latino children in California eat fast food regularly.

The study also revealed that only 57 percent of children eat at least five fruit and vegetable servings per day.

"A weekly happy meal is an unhappy solution, especially for toddlers," Susan Holtby, the study's lead author and a senior researcher at the Public Health Institute, said in a news release. "Hard-working, busy parents need support to make healthy food selections for their kids."

Researchers used data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) to examine dietary behaviors of very young children. They found that in both 2007 and 2009, about two-thirds of children between the ages of two and five ate at least one fast food meal during the previous week. The study revealed that 29 percent of children ate two or more servings and about 10 percent of children ate three or more fast food meals a week.

While the study revealed a general decline in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among children in California, the trend was reversed when linked to fast food. Researchers explained that children who ate two to three fast-food meals a week were significantly more likely to drink soda than those who consumed less fast food.

"Fast food combined with drinking soda at such a young age can set these kids up for obesity-related health problems," Holtby said.

The study was published in a new policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. 

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