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California Teens Turn to Fast Food

LOS ANGELES -- A new report from the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research reveals how much soda and fast food California teenagers consume, the Bay City (Calif.) News reported.

According to the report, more than 2 million California teens, or two-thirds of the total teen population in the state, consume a soft drink every day. About half of the state's teens, or 1.5 million, dine on fast food daily.
In fact, many teenagers eat fast food even more often with more than 300,000 California teens having fast food twice a day, and 90,000 consuming fast food three or four times a day, according to the report.

In addition, teens are not getting enough fruits and vegetables, according to the report. Less than a quarter of all California teens eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

"Overall, we were very surprised with the sheer number of teens who were eating fast food and drinking soda every day," Susan Babey, research scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and co-author of the study to Bay City News. "It is particularly troubling when compared to the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat each day."

The report is based on data from 4,000 12- to 17-year olds in the 2003 California Health Interview Survey, which the center conducts every two years.
One of the report's key findings suggests that students who have access to soda machines at school drink 25 percent more soda than those who don't.

"It wasn't so much surprising but a find we consider important," said Babey. "It reinforces our belief that eating decisions are made in a context."

As the controversy over drink machines in schools intensifies, the study is sure to play a role in the debate. Last month, the American Beverage Association recommended limiting availability of soft drinks in schools across the country.

The trade group, which represents companies that manufacture and distribute non-alcoholic beverages, voted unanimously last month to work with schools to ensure they carry only water and 100 percent juice in their vending machines.

Most elementary schools and middle schools have already gotten rid of soft drinks, said Babey, but high schools have been slower to change, the newspaper report stated.
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