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A disturbing connection between fast food and happiness

April 14, 2009 | 11:15 am

Pizza The disturbing part is that a connection apparently exists. For kids, at least.

Researchers at National Taiwan University and the University of Arkansas parsed data from the National Health Interview Survey in Taiwan (where 1 in 4 children is overweight). Their study, published recently in the Journal of Happiness Studies, found some perhaps unsurprising but worth-repeating connections. Among them:

-- Kids ages 2 to 12 who regularly eat fast food (French fries, pizza or burgers) and indulge in soft drinks (sugar-sweetened beverages) are more likely to be overweight. (Yes, yes, just keep going . . . )

-- Moms who turn to fast food are more likely to have kids who turn to fast food. 

-- Kids in cities are more likely to consume fast food than kids in small towns. (Think access to the stuff.)

-- Greater fast food consumption is linked to greater soft drink consumption.

-- Kids eat more fast food and guzzle more soft drinks as they get older.

And then the clincher:

-- Kids who regularly scarf down fast food and soft drinks are less likely to be  unhappy than kids who don't. More likely to be overweight, yes, but less likely to be unhappy.

There's a conundrum.

The researchers state in their conclusion: "Current and future policy/program interventions that aim to decrease fast food and soft drinks consumption of children to reduce childhood obesity may be more
effective if these interventions also focus on ways that could compensate the potential
reduction in degree of happiness of children."

Who knew parents had to choose between maximizing their kids' chances for health and maximizing their chances for happiness?

As one colleague put it: "There's a reason they're called  Happy Meals."

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Just the thought of pizza, I'll confess, makes me a little happy too. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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