Study: Pizza may lead to health problems for kids

CHICAGO -- A study shows the adverse dietary effects of pizza on children and adolescents.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that American youth take in significantly more calories, fat and sodium on the days they eat pizza.

Pizza is the second-highest source of energy in the diet of American youth. Researchers say that because it is eaten so frequently, its nutrient content should be improved.

Researchers examined dietary recall data from youths ages 2-19 who were participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2010.

They found that on the days when children ate pizza, they took in 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.

Researchers found that pizza had the largest impact on diet when eaten as a snack between meals. Children took in an additional 202 calories, and adolescents an extra 365 calories, on days they ate pizza as a snack compared to days they did not.

The study's author, Lisa Powell, says it's time to rethink the way we consume pizza. She says it should be eaten less, and never be eaten as a snack. As a meal, Powell suggests eating pizza with something healthy.

"When you eat pizza, think of pairing it with a salad or veggies," Powell says. "Instead of three or four pieces, have two and a salad, and that would go a long way at reducing adverse effects."

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics. A detailed report on the study can be found here.

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