Incomparable Obesity Villains – Soda Pop, Pizza and Potato Snacks

A Chip Butty

Analysis of data provided to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) by thousands of American children and teenagers revealed that on any given day, 22% of them eat pizza. Difficult as it may be to believe, this is actually an improvement over earlier reports, according to Lisa M. Powell, a health policy researcher from the University of Illinois, and her colleagues.

Kids from middle-income and high-income families have slacked off a bit on the pizza consumption. Also, the young are eating less pizza for dinner, although the breakfast, lunch, and snack amounts have apparently not diminished by much. This particular research team accused pizza of being an obesity villain equal to sugary drinks, which makes pizza a very sizable villain. The report says:

On days when children eat pizza, they consume an average of 408 additional calories, three additional grams of fat and 134 additional milligrams of salt compared with their regular diet. For teens, putting pizza on the day’s menu adds 624 calories, five grams of fat and 484 milligrams of salt.

Chips, Crisps, and Fries

Evidence against fried snacks continues to pile up—as if there were ever any doubt. Young people who responded to a poll at Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website voted for potato chips as the worst, most seductive and addictive problem food. Like their softer cousins the French fries, chips (“crisps” in the United Kingdom) turn bland potatoes into delicious grease delivery systems.

Crisps are one reason why, as Lizzie Parry phrased it for The Daily Mail, “British girls under 20 are the fattest in Europe.” She told the story of Brooke Clarke, who at age 10 was so big she was forced to wear her mother’s size 14 clothing. Apparently, the 5’1” Brooke was overweight by two stone, or 28 pounds. Granted, that is nowhere close to the ideal for a 10-year-old, but in the world sweepstakes of massively obese children, 28 extra pounds are far from impressive.

As so often happens, there was a complication—asthma, which left Brooke dependent on her inhaler. The short walk to school left her out of breath. The reason this even became a story is that the young girl eventually lost the extra weight. Parry describes her former condition:

At her peak, Brooke ate three to four packets of crisps a day, washed down with two liters of Coke…At her heaviest, Brooke was consuming almost double her daily recommended amount of calories and three times the amount of sugar…

Two liters is an awful lot of sugar-sweetened beverage to be consuming in one day, especially for someone who mainly sits around watching TV. Nowadays, there is more physical activity by Brooke, with her little brother and her mum, in the form of bike rides or swimming. The interesting part is, by cutting out the fried snacks and the fizzy drinks, Brooke dropped the extra weight in just three months.

Brooke’s mother told the press that losing the weight saved her daughter’s life. That is wonderful, but why did it take so long? Had she really never heard before that being overweight is not healthful, or that fizzy drinks cause obesity? Was this really momentous news? Probably not. The turning point here was a warning from the school nurse that Brooke was “very overweight.” Which at least goes to show that parents are not universally resentful of this intervention.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Experts zero in on pizza as prime target in war on childhood obesity, 01/19/15
Source: “10 stone at 10 years old, 07/27/15
Image by Smabs Sputzer


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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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