Why Processed Foods Make Your Child (and You) Fat

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Processed foods lead to obesity

Your child is heavier than he should be and you suspect part of it has to do with the many processed foods he consumes. Turns out, you’re right, and at long last we’ve got a study that explains why.

Basically, people who eat processed foods end up craving (and consuming) a whopping 508 more calories per day than those who consume healthier diets consisting of whole foods.

To put that in perspective, the typical woman is advised to consume no more than 2,000 calories a day (men, 2,400), so we’re talking about an additional 25% of calories for women, 20% for men). In the study, those extra calories averaged out to weight gains of one pound per week for test subjects eating processed foods; and a loss of one pound per week for those eating whole foods.

For the smaller bodies of children, this is even worse, since not only do their bodies need even more nutrition than those of adults, but they’re establishing eating habits that could stay with them (haunt them) for the rest of their lives. And that’s not even taking into account the ill health effects, bullying, and other struggles facing obese children.

Published in Cell Metabolism, the study seems to suggest that the consumption of processed foods leaves the body still hungering for the basic nutrition that it needs. Naturally, this creates cravings for still more food, hence all those extra calories. And because those processed foods are actually full of empty calories, the individual starts to gain weight.

Over time, this becomes a debilitating and disastrous cycle of eating and eating and eating in the body’s desperate attempt to find the nutrition it needs.

“I was surprised,” said the study’s lead author, Kevin Hall, who is a researcher at the Laboratory of Biological Modeling at the National Institutes of Health. “Though we examined a small group, results from this tightly controlled experiment showed a clear and consistent difference between two diets.”

It’s also worth noting that the men and women participating in the study said both the processed and whole food diets in the experiment tasted equally good, debunking the idea that processed foods are somehow better tasting than their healthier alternatives.

Given that diets built on whole foods already have been found to lower our risks for disease, parents are really running out of excuses for continuing to serve their kids processed foods.

Fortunately, there is a lot of evidence to suggest heavy kids aren’t doomed to high-calorie diets, even those with potential genetic predispositions. The key, however, is for mom and dad to eat healthier and lead the way.

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