Researchers found that on days that young children (ages 2 to 11) ate pizza, they ate 408 more calories than usual. Pizza days also accounted for kids consuming an additional three grams of fat, as well as 134 extra milligrams of salt.
For teens, pizza days exaggerated these numbers further. Pizza added an extra 624 calories to teens' average daily diet, in addition to packing in an extra five grams of fat and 484 milligrams of salt.
The data was collected and analyzed by scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Health policy researcher Lisa M. Powell and her colleagues sourced the study data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Over the course any given year, the researchers found, pizza accounts for roughly five percent of a child's diet. And the Italian American staple accounts for seven percent of the average teenager's diet.
"[Pizza] should become a target for counseling for the prevention and treatment of obesity in pediatric practice," Powell and her colleagues wrote in their study -- published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Powell didn't declare war on pizza exactly, but she did liken the food item to the role of sugary drinks in corrupting the diets and health of young people. She says health experts should do more to encourage food providers to offer kids healthier options at the lunch and dinner table.
"Pediatricians could come out with a statement saying that food producers in restaurants could go a long way in improving children's diets if they made some small changes in the nutrient content of their pizza," Powell told MedPage Today.
"Pizza, unless made with whole grain flour, does not contain a large amount of fiber which helps to promote feelings of fullness and satiety," she added.
Powell says further studies are in order -- such as a closer look at how pizza consumption affects blood sugar and blood pressure among children.
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