According to a new policy brief released today by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, researchers have found that teens are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day if their parents do and also, teens whose parents eat fast food or drink soda are more likely to do the same.
The cause of the deficit of healthy foods in teen diets has been attributed in part to the high concentration of fast food restaurants in certain cities and neighbourhoods and other environmental factors.
According to center research scientist Susan H. Babey, a co-author of the policy brief, the new study suggests, "good dietary habits start at home. If parents are eating poorly, chances are their kids are too."
The policy brief drew upon the responses of thousands of California teenagers queried by the center-administered California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation''s largest state health survey.
The findings revealed that teens whose parents drink soda every day are nearly 40 percent more likely to drink soda every day themselves than teens whose parents do not drink soda.
Teens whose parents eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily are 16 percent more likely to do the same than teens whose parents do not eat five servings a day.
Nearly half of adolescents (48 percent) whose parents drink soda every day eat fast food at least once a day, while only 39 percent of teens whose parents do not drink soda eat fast food at least once daily.
It was found that 45 percent of teens whose parents do not eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily eat fast food at least once a day, while only 39 percent of teens whose parents eat five servings a day eat fast food at least once daily.
Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and chief executive officer of the California Endowment, said: "The research shows us that one of the keys to solving the teen obesity crisis starts with parents, but we must also improve the abysmal food environments in many low-income communities,”
"While parents are the primary role models for their children and their behaviour can positively or negatively influence their children''s health, it is also essential that local officials representing low-income communities work to expand access to fruits, vegetables and other healthful foods," he added.
According to the authors of the policy brief, educating parents about unhealthy food choices, as well as how to plan and prepare healthier fare, would help in reducing teen obesity.