A study published in the journal Pediatrics reveals that Pizza is the second leading source of energy for U.S. children in their diet. The study comments that approximately 20% of children eat pizza on any given day.
The researchers express concern as most of the calories consumed from pizza originate from its sodium and fat content and very little attention is paid to its actual nutritional content.
“Curbing pizza consumption alone isn’t enough to significantly reduce the adverse dietary effects of pizza,” said lead author Lisa Powell, associate director of the Health Policy Center at the Institute of Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It’s a very common and convenient food, so improving the nutritional content of pizza, in addition to reducing the amount of pizza eaten, could help lessen its negative nutritional impact.”
The researchers participants consisted of children aged 2-19 who were participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2010. On days when children ate pizza, they consumed an additional 84 calories, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 134 milligrams of sodium than they did on no-pizza days. Adolescents took in an extra 230 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat and 484 milligrams of sodium. In 2009-2010, on days pizza was eaten, it made up 22 percent of total caloric intake among children and 26 percent of total caloric intake in adolescents.
“Children and adolescents do not adequately compensate by eating less of other foods on days when they eat pizza,” said Powell, who is professor of health policy and administration in the UIC School of Public Health. For adolescents, the additional fat and sodium intake on days that pizza is eaten represents 24 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the recommended daily values for those nutrients, she said.
Pizza consumption was higher among African American Children compared to Hispanic Children, but its source as excess calories was generally consistent among race, gender and income, leading researchers to believe that pizza consumption is contributing to the obesity epidemic prevalent in U.S. children.
Energy and nutrient intake from pizza in the United States, Lisa M. Powell, et al., Pediatrics, doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-1844, abstract.