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Eating These Foods Can Stunt Kids' Growth, New Study Says

Parents, beware. Experts say up to 70% of your child's calories may come from this type of diet.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

Heads up, families: A new skeletal development study has discovered another important insight about your child's nutrition. Researchers have found that one family diet habit not only sets your child up for poor eating habits, but it may actually cause "reduced bone growth" and bone density damage in the long run.

The study, published this month in the journal Bone Research, was authored by a team of biochemistry and nutrition researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's school of agriculture who call it "the first comprehensive study of the effect of widely-available food products on skeleton development."

Looking at diet trends among families, their goal was to investigate the link between what they call "ultra-processed foods" on bone development in children. These are defined as food products "that undergo several stages of processing and contain non-dietary ingredients." You might think of them as junk food, along with the type of groceries that are easy to grab or heat and eat—which makes up 70% of the calories many children consume, the researchers found.

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The study surveyed young lab rodents who had been fed an ultra-processed diet. The researchers report, "The rodents that were subjected to ultra-processed foods suffered from growth retardation and their bone strength was adversely affected." The scientists also "detected high levels of cartilage buildup in the rodents' growth plates, the 'engine' of bone growth."

When they reduced the proportion of ultra-processed foods to 70% and added a 30% proportion of "controlled" foods, the researchers found that the lab animals experienced moderate damage to their bone density, and "fewer indications of cartilage buildup in their growth plates."

The researchers say this study highlights how severely junk food can affect children's growth. From their research, that seems true. But while this same method was not applied to children in this study, this may also point to one way healthier diet changes may optimize a child's potential to grow big and strong.

Looking to be more mindful about what your children eat? Read up on the second major macaroni and cheese brand that's being sued for toxins.

Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more