Recently, Burger King has dropped sugary soft drinks from its kids' menu boards and thus joined a growing number of fast-food restaurants that aim to cut unhealthy meals for children - specifically McDonald's and Wendy's.
Kids still can order sugary and carbonated drinks, but they are not listed on their special menu. Soda is replaced by low-fat chocolate milk and 100% apple juice.
Of course, that was not a truly voluntary move by Burger King, but the answer to the growing pressure from conscious consumers. The consumer advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, in the USA, says it has lobbied Burger King for almost two years to change the menu.
It is believed that sugary soft drinks are a main source of calories (often called "empty calories") in children's diets and thus can contribute to obesity. The USA keeps the leading positions in overall obesity rates for years - 35% of US citizens were obese as of 2012.
But the American kids are not leaders in this rating. According to the 2014 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, about 30% of American children age 5 to 17 were overweight or obese, compared with 44% of boys and 38% of girls in Greece. In Italy, the rate is 36% for boys and 34% for girls, in the UK (England) it is 22% and 26% respectively.
The regional office for Europe of the World Health Organization said that a year ago 1 in 3 children aged 11 years old in the European region were overweight or obese.
The risk of childhood obesity is, obviously, not only the unhealthy look. About 70% of obese youth have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. They are more likely to have prediabetes, risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
Children and adolescents with obesity easily grow into obese adults with more serious health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
In this respect, healthy diet and cutting sugars is really one of the keys to preventing and treating the problem. But that's not enough. The research published in 2005 included the analysis of a cross-sectional survey of nearly 140 000 youths aged 10 to 16 from the 34 (primarily European) countries. The results showed that within most countries physical activity levels were lower and TV viewing times were higher in overweight compared to normal weight youths. At the same time in 91% of these countries, the frequency of sweets intake was lower in overweight than normal weight youth. The problem was not associated with the intake of fruits, vegetables, and soft drinks.
This points again to a well-known fact that preventing obesity and the problems caused by it is only possible if we combine healthy eating with physical activity and dropping soft drinks from kids' menus by the major fast-food chains can be a huge step in changing children eating patterns.