PUBH7650 Clinical Epidemiology

What is the impact of junk food on obesty in children?

The findings of this study on the impacts of junk food on obesity in children will help all the stakeholders, education practitioners, parents, children, business organization and government to understand the effect of rising number of junk foods on the future generation. Obesity at tender age affects the adult livelihood, hence impacts strains on the economic and financial status of the individual and the country as a whole.

Food is an essential element to the body as it facilitates the provision of energy, growth, and protection of a human being. Children require good food to have good health; it is supposed to be nutritious and natural. The daily choice of food affects our lives and the lives of our children and in the past few decades, the food habit has changed mainly due to the changing socioeconomic and cultural norms within our societies. A large number of children today have easy access to junk foods outside, and some parents even allow willingly the junk foods in their home without knowing the adverse effects on their children (Van Hook, Altman & Balustreri,2013). The culture of eating junk foods is an emerging trend among children and has resulted in numerous medical conditions such as cancer, obesity and cardiovascular diseases among children in the world (Mandia, Gradnaru, Loghin & Vatamanu,2016). Large numbers of schools have sites that sell junk foods such as cafeterias that are always reluctant with nutritious diets; rather interested to make a profit from a large number of children.

One-third of all children around the world are now considered overweight or obese, thus considerable attention has been placed by numerous governments, agencies, and even parents on the effect of junk foods on the children and to reverse the obesity epidemic (Lind et al., 2016). For example, the United States government through USDA designed comprehensive regulations on the soft drinks in food services, and recently different policies have been constituted by different states, individuals and schools. Children with overweight history have a high probability of becoming obese in the adulthood future.


Obesity and overweight are abnormal fat accumulation in the body that exposes an individual to health risk factors. According to WHO, obesity refers to as the possession of a body mass index that is and is calculated based on the personal weight against height, however, does not measure the body fat parentage(Durbin,2018). An adult with more than 30 is considered obese while between 25-30 BMI is considered overweight. Today about 2.1 billion people in the world are obese, that’s more than 30% of the total population (Ajslev et al., 2014). Country wise, United States accommodates 13% while India and China accommodate 15% of the global obese population.  Children obesity has increased substantially since between 1980 and 2013, the overweight and obesity increased by nearly 50 %( Lind et al., 2016). Recent studies indicate that about 20% of schools aged children in the western countries are either overweight or obese that is translated that one in 10 school-aged children are affected. From the table, developed countries such as the USA, Canada have a high prevalence of obesity among the children, while African countries tend to have relatively low prevalence

Obesity among children is a growing epidemic across the world. In the past it was a problem experienced among adults and developed countries, heaver, currently, it cuts across all geographical regions and ages. Obesity is caused by over deposition of fat and carbohydrate in the body that is received from the growing fast food consumption across the population (Visscher et al., 2015). In 2012 more than third children in the united states were diagnosed with overweight and obesity, and has been increasing and is projected to increase in the near future due to the high rate of junk food consumption. The current study, therefore, focuses on the impact of junk food on childhood obesity.

Classification Of Childhood Obesity

Various measures are used to measure obesity and overweight in children and this has likely affected the prevalence estimates over time and across the population in many studies. Currently, BMI is considered as the best option, however, much it doesn’t take into account the fat composition and varies substantially between ages and sex among the children (Taylor, 2018). As indicate earlier, adults with more than 30 BMI are obsessed but for children, the measurement has some cut of principles designed by the International Obesity Task Force( IOTF) as illustrated in the figure 2(McHugh,2016). CDC has developed a better way to accommodate the BMI that takes into account the age-sex of a child since children’s body composition tends to vary against age and sex, thus the BMI needs to be expressed relative to other children on the same category of sex and age (Vandevijvere et al., 2015).  The measurement is based on a percentile; a number that indicates a child position as compared to others of the same ages and sex. For example, according to the BMI age-sex, a boy child of 10 years of the average height of 56 inches and weighs 102 pounds tends to have a BMI of 22.9 kg/m2 placing him on the 95th percentile for BMI, thus considered as obese since is higher than 95% of the population.

Junk Food

Junk food refers to fast food that is easily made and consumed and always characterized by low nutritional value; they contain a lot of fat, high level of sugar, a low protein that has a detrimental effect on the consumer. The term junk was derived by Michael Jacobson of the Center for science in 1972 to raise public attention on the high caloric foods (Cook et al., 2017). Junk foods are popular due to the following reasons: Junk foods are easy to make; for example potatoes, wafers do not need cooking or heating and children prefer to eat them while watching TV (Pesch et al., 2016). Junk foods taste very nice from the lavish usage of oil, salt, and sugar. This pushes a lot of children to eat them. Junk foods are accessible in most of the scrolls and restaurants and have great attraction ability to the children, lastly, they are easy to package and transport making them more reliable to most of the school going children.

The Rate Of Junk Food Consumptions

Studies indicate a high rise of junk food consumption. In 1953, junk food consumption was approximated to be about 4% of the total food sales outside homes; increased to 34% by 1997(Van Hook & Altman,2012). This means that the consumption of junk food quintupled from 2% in the 1970s to 40% in 1990s and continues to grow since the growing number of Junk food companies deliberately target children from the age of 2 years as their market.

The Relationship Between Junk Food And Obesity

The characteristics of junk food; appealing nature, tastiness and easy to carry across, allow children to eat without planning. A healthy eating dictates that one eats only when it is a pre-set meal time, and when they spare time. Previous studies indicate a significant relationship between junk foods and BMI. Studies were done by Verma, Bagri, Sharma, Barouha, and Hague(2015,)found out that obesity n children were directly correlated with the children consumed junk foods. Children who consumed a lot of junk foods had a higher risk of becoming obese and contacting another disease too. The study researched the economic and social status of the parents and how that impacted their children’s weight, however, drew no correlation.  Junk food contains a lot of fat, that when consumed tend to be deposited on the body. The deposited fat tends to increase the body mass hence resulting in obesity. Junk food contains a lot of chemical additives such as artificial coloring and preservatives (Boylan et al., 2015). The most common chemical additives in junk foods are MSG and tartrazine that have been attributed to obesity by several studies.  Junk foods also contain a high amount of salt such as sodium; that when consumed in large amount leads to a build-up of fluids and aggregated the blood pressure.

Study Goals And Objectives

The goal of this research is to study on the impact of junk food on obesity in children. The objectives are thus to find out what is junk food and how does junk food contribute to childhood obesity in the current world. These will be realized through the answering of the following research question: What are the junk foods and how do they contribute to obesity in children?

Study Design And Methods

The research study design and methods refer to the strategy used to identify and incorporate a different component of the study in a systematic way to ensure that the research problem is addressed. The study design thus will constitute the study area, sampling design, sample size collection, data analysis, ethical consideration, and study limitations.

Research Design

Research design refers to the data collection method acquired to retrieve the required information. The research designs allow the researcher to collect evidence used to understand and answer the research question. The most common research designs are descriptive, correlational, experimental and semi-experimental (Fetters, Curry & Creswell,2013).

There are two study designs used by the researcher: observational and experimental. The observational study design, the researcher studies but does not make any changes, and this includes surveys. On the other hand, in the experimental study design, the researcher always intervenes to change reality and later observes what happens to the participants of the study.

Observational Study Design

For the purpose of this study, the researcher will adopt an observational research study design to facilitate the understanding of the impact of junk food on obesity on children. Under the observational design, the researcher will use both the longitudinal and descriptive cross-sectional survey where random children will be selected and their food consumption behavior will be collected against the nature of their weight to determine the effect of junk food on obesity on children.

Descriptive And Analytical Cross-Sectional Method

The choice of descriptive and analytical cross-sectional study based on the researcher’s aim to find the prevalence of obesity among children through the cross-section study of the population. Though this researcher will be able to obtain an overall position of obesity at the time of the study and will enable the researcher to purposive chose the participants.    

 Longitudinal Method

The longitudinal study will allow the researcher to follow the weight change of children under the study for a long period of time; one year to fully determine whether there is an effect of junk food on the obesity in children. The study will have children into two groups: those that feed on junk food and those that do not feed on the junk food. Those who do not feed on the junk food will act as the control group to the study.

The researcher will, therefore, use both the qualitative and quantitative techniques will be adopted to ascertain the impact of junk food on obesity among children. The choice of cross-sectional research design is relevant since it is capable to access the frequency and distribution of obesity among children who consume a lot of junk food across a large region. On the other hand, the analytical cross-section will allow the researcher to investigate the association between junk food and obesity, thus the combination of the two will ensure conclusive information of the impacts of junk food on obesity among children.

The Qualitative Technique

The qualitative research aids the researthe cher to acquire relevant information and data from past studies on the topic. This enhances the understandability of the re searcher  on the  factors that contribute to obesity among children and how junk food is connected to obesity. The qualitative research is significant given theta the topic is not narrowed into a specific country; it allows the reseathe rcher to explore across the world through the use of past studies.

Quantitative Technique

Is the numerical data collection process that is done on the actual participants to identify the impacts of junk food on obesity among children; the data collected helps also to ascertain the literature review on the topic.

Study Area

The study will be subjected to four countries;   USA, Australia, Kenya, and India. The choice of the nations is purposive on the nature of the economy and rate of junk food consumption; for example, junk food consumption is high in the United States than in Kenya, thus many children are more prone to obesity in the USA. The population from these four study areas is large enough to facilitate the study of the problem. According to Letue, Martinez, Samson, Villain (2018), population forms a broader area of study from which a sample is drawn to make a general conclusion. It is always very difficult to subject the whole population into the study as it makes it costly, the tiresome and high probability of error (Nakano & Muniz Jr. 2018). The target population will be children aged between 5-17 years across four nations. The nations that will be used will be USA, Australia, Kenya, and India. The choice of the nations is purposive on the nature of the economy and rate of junk food consumption.

Sample Design

The researcher will adopt a purposive sampling technique in this study. Purposive sampling will be used to select children that seems to have rich information especially those that have a large body and small body (Ab Rahman, 2013). A total of 1250 children from the selected countries will be included in this study, and a list of schools will be obtained from the governments to select the schools that will participate. Information in content will be provided to the relevant participants and authority and the questionnaire will be designed in English for uniformity.

Sample Size Calculation

The sample size is significant to all empirical studies as it helps to make a general conclusion about the large population. As discusses earlier, about 14 million children in the United States are affected by either overweight or obesity. The population is large, thus the sample size will be sample size = (distribution of 50%)/ (Margin of Error%/confidence level score of 0.5) squared will be 38311 children(Ranganathan & Aggrawal, 2018).

Data Analysis

The collected information, both form the secondary and primary methods will be analyzed to help the researcher understand the impact of junk food on obesity in children. Mixed analytical methods will be adopted on each: quantitative and qualitative analysis methods.

Qualitative Analysis Method

The qualitative data will be analyzed through the use of content analysis to elaborate on the various factors of the topic in the previous studies (Aldhdouh, 2018). The choice of content analysis is based on the availability of numerous past studies that talks about obesity, junk food, children and different nations thus the available information’s are wide that need relevant inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Quantitative Analysis Method

The quantitative data analysis focuses on the understanding of the numerical and information collected by the interview session (Lai, Chen & Wu, 2017).   Descriptive and inferential data analysis forms the major used statistical analysis methods by researchers. As the descriptive tends to deal with the data from the group members, the inferential entails analysis of a specific group of samples from the entire population that aids at generalizing the characteristics of the entire population.

Inferential Statistical Data Analysis

The study thus will adopt the inferential statistical data analysis method given that there is a large population of obese children across the world. Different techniques such as SPSS will be used to analyze the specific samples size of the children consuming junk foods to identify the impact on the body weight and find out if the two variables: body weight and junk food are correlated.

Ethical Consideration

According to Pulverer and Rmbruster (2017), participants are always obliged to voluntarily participate, therefore, the participants were children, will neither influenced nor coerced to participate in this study and every child will be given chance to quit any time they feel uncomfortable.   The researcher will ensure that all the provided information is kept discrete as requested by participants. Moreover, all the used secondary information will be acknowledged and no accessibility will be done without the authors’ permission.

Study Limitations

The purposive sampling of the participants tends to provide low validity enhancing probability of data manipulation. Secondly, the proposal has assumptions that junk food has adverse effects on health hence will not allow the researcher to reason out of the ideology.

Study Impacts

After the study, it is expected to have a positive correlation between junk food consumption and body mass weight; those children that consume a lot of junk food gain more weight than those that don’t consume a lot of junk food hence have a high probability of contracting obesity.

Project Management Arrangement

In this study, all children between the ages 5-17 will be participants, parents of underage children, heads of selected institutions, the researcher together with data collection and analysis assistance.


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