If your child is often bingeing on burgers, pizza, fries, and other fast foods, perhaps it is time to intervene. Overconsumption not only wreaks havoc on their health but also independently contribute to excess weight gain among children.
While several experts have often emphasised on the need to take extra care of a child's diet and how important it is to steer clear of junk and fast food, the present study hinted at the possible direct link it may have with bodyweight.
Obesity is one of the world's biggest health concerns. Overweight children are at an increased risk of numerous physical and psychosocial problems like fatty liver disease, Type-2 diabetes and depression
"We now know from our studies and others, that kids who start on the path of extra weight gain during this really important time frame tend to carry it forward into adolescence and adulthood, and this sets them up for major health consequences as they get older," said first author Jennifer Emond, Assistant Professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, US.
"To our knowledge, ours is the first study to follow a cohort over time and to show that fast food, by itself, uniquely contributes to weight gain," explained Emond.
Previous research has shown that fast food coupled with other sedentary habits may lead to weight gain. However, it has not been clear whether eating fast food independently contributes to excess weight gain at such a young age.
To study the link researchers followed a cohort of more than 500 pre-school age children (ages 3 to 5) and their families in southern New Hampshire for one year.
For the study published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, the height and weight of the children were measured at the beginning and end of the study.
Parents were made to report their children's fast food intake frequency weekly - from 11 chain fast-food restaurants - in six online surveys that were completed at two-month intervals.
Findings revealed that at the beginning of the study, about 18 percent of the children were overweight and nearly 10 percent were obese.
About 8 percent of the children gained massive weight over the one-year period.
"Unlike with past research, we were able to adjust for other factors - such as exercise and screen time - that could possibly explain away this relationship," Emond said.
"Findings from this research should be used to inform guidelines and policies that can reduce fast-food marketing exposure to children and help support parents who may be struggling to adopt healthier eating behaviours for their kids," she added.
(This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.)