Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents in the United States are obese. Many things contribute to childhood obesity, including: overeating, lack of physical activity, and kids’ genetic make-up and family histories.

Another very important factor that can cause obesity is poor eating habits. Fast food, sweets like donuts and candy, and other highly processed fare make up many of American kids’ meals—as many people reading this post can probably attest. But one health policy researcher has zeroed in on a beloved food item as the prime target in the war on childhood obesity: pizza.

Lisa M. Powell and fellow researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted a study for the health journal Pediatrics in which they found some genuinely troubling (but probably not surprising) statistics concerning everyone’s favorite bastardized Italian food item, as rounded up by the Los Angeles Times.

On any given day, 22% of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 eat pizza.
• Younger kids eat 83 calories’ worth of pizza a day and teens eat 143 calories of the dish each day, on average.
• On days when pizza is eaten, it composes 22% of children’s calories and 26% of teens’ calories, the researchers found.

Another small tidbit from the study will probably also send shivers down the spine of any adult, whether he/she woofs down some pie hungover before class or on the way to the office:

Kids also ate a small amount of pizza for breakfast or as snacks. The snack pizza was particularly troubling to the researchers. On days when children had this indulgence, they ate 202 more calories over the course of the day compared with days when they didn’t. For teens, pizza snacks added 365 calories to the daily total.

Gawker is claiming that Powell’s study is a “war on pizza,” but we wouldn’t go that far. Pizza is amazing and formidable, but it is almost always carb- and fat-loaded because of the dough, cheese, and other toppings. Of course, making pizza at home can provide the opportunity to drop healthier ingredients into the mix, and even Powell throws some low-key optimism ‘za’s way: “[pizza] could benefit from reformulation to reduce the empty calories and make them healthier.”

That it can, and we firmly believe it will, for we believe pizza is everything (when consumed responsibly).

[via L.A. Times]

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