Attitudes about Food
Approximately 18% of adolescents are obese. Attitudes about Food is a cross sectional study that seeks to identify lifestyle factors associated with adolescent obesity such as fast food consumption, physical activity, attitudes about fast food, and weight perception. The novel aspect of this study is that it seeks to understand how the respondent perceives the health attitudes and behaviors of their closest friends. Subjects were recruited from four youth organizations for a total of 25 participants between the ages of 12-17 years. Respondents completed a 71 item questionnaire, and height and weight were measured by trained interviewers to calculate BMI. Data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS 19.0), and hypotheses were assessed using correlation coefficients.
Obese respondents were more likely than non0obese participants to consume at least three fast food meals in the last week (P < .05). Consuming fast food in the last week of the study was associated with exercising one hour a week or less (P < .01). Agreeing that eating fast food is fun was associated with BMI >= 85th percentile (P < .01). Reporting that friends think eating fast food is healthy was associated with eating fast food three or more times in the last week (P < .04) and exercising one hour a week or less (P < .01). Individuals who reported exercising at least four days a week were likely to agree with the statements "eating fast food will make me fat" (P < .03) and "will increase total fat" (p < .05). Finally, overweight adolescents were more likely to underestimate their weight status compared to normal weight and obese respondents.
These findings indicate a clustering of risk factors for obesity. Frequent fast food consumption and infrequent physical activity were associated in the present study which could tip the scales of energy balance. Health professionals could focus on raising awareness of the overall diet quality of adolescents who frequently consume fast food while encouraging healthy, fun alternatives to fast food. Screening for overweight status and eliciting peer support for healthy eating are key elements in reducing adolescent obesity.