Brian Elbel, PhD, an
associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone, and
at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, led the study which
claimed to be thefirst of it kind
to analyze the reasons behind consumption of high calorie sugary drinks at fast
‘Regularly eating combo meals at fast food restaurants may lead to obesity, owing mainly to the high calorie sugary beverages that come freely with it.’
The eating choices of 483 boys and girls between 1 to 18 years
of age at fast food outlets,
who either dined in or
opted for take-away from five popular fast food
outlets between January 2013 and June 2014
were studied. All restaurants
included in the survey were
situated in New York or
in Newark or Jersey City, NJ. Additionally, the parents of all youth
dining at these joints
were interviewed about their purchases based on meal receipts.
What the Study Revealed
The important facts that
emerged from the study include the following-
- Kids dining at one of the five major fast-food chains on
average ate 179 more calories when their
meal deals included soda, juice or sweetened tea, or flavored milks, in
comparison to those who consumed non-sugary beverages or nothing with their
- Purchasing drinks as part of bundled combo meals was
linked to the intake on average of 82 more drink calories than when the
drinks were purchased separately.
- Parents who bought combo meals were 24 percent more likely to
end up opting for a high-calorie, sugar-sweetened beverage than a
non-sweetened drink or no beverage, when compared to parents who did not buy
- Among those surveyed, fewer than half (42
percent) purchased a combination meal, but 74
percent of combo purchases were kids' meals.
- Nearly half of all beverages (49 percent) were
sodas. The rest were juice (38 percent), flavored milk (5 percent), regular
milk (2 percent), and water (1 percent). Another 5 percent consisted of
sweetened teas, lemonade, and hot chocolate.
- Those who
opted for takeaway meals averaged 14
fewer drink calories than those who ate in the restaurant.
- Age and gender
seemed to play a role as well, though less so than combo meals — in choosing to
buy sugary drinks. Teenagers were 22
percent more likely to choose them than younger children, and probability of males taking sweetened
drinks was 31 percent higher compared to females.
"Our study strongly
suggests that uncoupling sugary drinks from combo meal deals might reduce
high-calorie beverage consumption and help to curb childhood obesity
rates fueled by these kinds of
liquid calories," says study senior investigator Brian Elbel, PhD, an associate
professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone, and at the NYU
Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
It is highly probable
that additional sugar
content in such sweetened drinks
many of them to cross the maximum, recommended limit of between 120 and 180
calories set in U.S. national dietary guidelines, according to the researchers
of this study.
Lessons to be Learnt From The Study
Obesity levels among
young Americans seems to be increasing and could be a major risk factor for
development of other diseases such as diabetes
, hypertension and heart disease later. It can also
cause low self-esteem and depression.
is linked to
consumption of too many of calories, and calories present in sugary
foodstuffs are commonly
implicated. At present, 17 percent of kids in the US less than 19
years are estimated to
"Although our study does
not prove cause and effect with respect to obesity and bundled fast-food
meals," Elbel says, "policy-makers will ideally be able to use research like
ours to guide them in formulating public health policies that may effectively
decrease consumption of unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages."
Policy makers should
take note of the findings of this and other similar studies, and enforce strict
regulations regarding quality and sugar content of foods served at the fast
food outlets. The health of their children is at stake.
Parents and individuals
too have a responsibility to make healthy choices. Fast food restaurants and
are here to stay. Ultimately, our health is in our hands, and in the choices we
- Childhood obesity - (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/childhood-obesity/basics/definition/con-20027428)