Children in the United States are at risk of "Recession obesity" as parents substitute cheap, fast food for healthy meals to try to weather the economic slump, a report published Wednesday showed.
"There is concern with 'recession obesity' apart from the general trend toward an increasing number of obese American children," said Kenneth Land, project director of the Child Well-Being Index, which tracks how American children are faring socially, emotionally, in terms of education and health.
"There is a concern that parents will substitute fast food, high carbohydrate and high sugar-content food, for healthy food and that this will cause an uptick in the rate of overweight children and adolescents," Land, a sociology professor at Duke University, said at the launch of the 2009 report.
A study published one year ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that nearly 32 percent of US children were overweight and 16 percent were obese.
The obesity rate had tripled between 1980-1999, creating an epidemic blamed on a poor diet heavy on fat and sugar with little consumption of fruits and fresh vegetables and lack of exercise, the report in JAMA said.
Obese children are at a higher risk of developing heart diseases, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. They are also more likely to become obese adults.
Researchers at Duke University analyzed dozens of indicators to compile the 2009 Child Well-Being Index, which aims to assess how American children are faring today, compare their current situation with the past, and project what they might face in the future.
The index this year included a special report on the impact of the current recession on US children.