Children in American receive 12 per cent of their calories from fast food, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But, why is this the case?

Are the families of children to blame, or is the marketing prowess of food companies too powerful for parents to control?

The worrying report revealed that one third of American children and adolescents eat fast food every day. The information, which was taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), examined data from 2011-12, with fast food consumption broken down among under-18s into age groups.

Kids aged 12-19 ate twice as many calories (16.9 per cent) from fast food restaurants as children aged between two and 11 (8.7 per cent), which makes an average of 12.4 per cent.

Roughly, that’s equivalent to a small hamburger every day.

The findings are alarming. They’re not helped by the recent news of a three-year-old from Texas becoming the youngest person to ever be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, at least, her diabetes was reversed within six months.

Why is fast food so prevalent?

It’s hard to fight good marketing. Sandra Hassink, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says: “It’s very well-advertised, and the marketing is working.”

Hassink believes other factors are at work, though. One of these is that a lot more children are developing health problems typically experienced in adulthood, such as high blood pressure.

“Childhood doesn’t buffer you against these diseases. Childhood is not a place where you can say, ‘Let everyone eat what they want and we can fix it later,’” Hassink said.

Another reason for the prevalence of fast food is that it is getting cheaper. Conversely, healthy food is becoming more expensive.

Moreover, the food industry is spending billions of dollars to promote its products. One can blame parents, but there are several factors involved.

What can be done?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity among children has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the last 30 years.

A sugar tax has been called for by organisations including the Canadian Diabetes Association, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed that nutrition labels include how much added sugar is in every food item.

While the average person can limit their fast food intake and try to eat and live as healthily as possible, the problem of fast food and processed is one facing society as a whole.