Cut Out Pizza, Slice Kids' Calories

Calorie and fat intake from pizza in children and adolescents remained high

(RxWiki News) So that'll be a large pizza with pepperoni and sausage. Would you like to add some nutrition counseling to that?

A new study found that pizza was a major part of the diets of US children and adolescents. The authors of this study suggested that officials should consider nutrition counseling for kids specifically focused on pizza.

"First, parents of younger children and teens should think about curbing how often they eat pizza," said Lisa M. Powell, PhD, of the Institute of Health Research and Policy in Chicago, in an interview with dailyRx News. "Second, when they do consume pizza, they should eat less of it."

The data in this study was gathered as a part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2003 to 2010.

The most recent data gathered — from 2009 — showed that, on an average day, 20 percent of children and 23 percent of teens ate pizza.

Children and adolescents who consumed pizza ate an average of 84 and 230 more daily calories, respectively, than those who didn't eat pizza. Lead study author William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, of the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, DC, and colleagues said these extra calories could be a result of kids not reducing their total daily calorie intake from other foods when they eat pizza.

In other words, pizza eaters may not eat fewer calories before or after to balance pizza's high calorie content.

While children and teens showed a decrease in calorie intake from pizza between 2003 and 2004, pizza still took up a large portion of their daily calories. Dr. Dietz and team found that, when kids ate pizza, children consumed 408 calories from it and teens consumed 624 calories on average.

Pizza consumption was also related to higher daily intake of sodium and saturated fats, Dr. Dietz and team found.

"To help put this into perspective, the additional saturated fat and sodium is 24% and 21%, respectively, of teens’ daily recommended reference levels for these nutrients," Dr. Powell said. "And, they are already exceeding recommended saturated fat and sodium intake."

According to these researchers, dietary counseling is more effective if it focuses on specific foods. High pizza intake in children and teens makes pizza a prime candidate for such counseling, these researchers said. Dr. Dietz and team said they believed pizza-specific policies and practices should be considered to curb pizza consumption.

"By making a number of even small changes in the nutritional content of pizza, because pizza is so frequently eaten, food companies and restaurants could have quite broad reach in terms of improving children’s diets," Dr. Powell said.

This study was published online Jan. 18 in the journal Pediatrics.

The National Cancer Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 18, 2015