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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Loma Linda Research Finds Significant Association between Fast Food and Poor Mental Health in California Children

New research out of the Loma Linda University School of Public Health found poor mental health to be significantly associated with any consumption of french fries or fried potatoes, even after adjusting for other factors including parent’s education and income. The purpose of the research was to determine if poor mental health was associated with the consumption of specific foods among California children.


[Photo: Dr. Jim E. Banta]

The study analyzed data from 11,190 children 5 – 11 years of age whose parents completed the 2007 or 2009 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). Mental health was measured using a shortened version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Dietary measures were self-reported servings of fruit, vegetables, 100 percent fruit juice, high sugar foods, soda/sweetened drinks, and french fries/fried potatoes consumed during the previous day, as well as the frequency of fast food consumed during the past week.

“Perhaps the main take-away here is that there is a small group of kids who need help. They have poor diets along with poor behavioral or emotional health and are being set up for an unhealthy life,” said Dr. Jim E. Banta, associate professor and program director for the master in public health in health policy and leadership at Loma Linda.

Of an estimated annual population of 3.7 million children, 180,000 or 4.9 percent had poor mental health. Univariate analysis revealed that children with poor mental health also consumed more soda/sweetened drinks and fast food in general compared to children with good mental health.

The full research paper, Mental health and food consumption among California children 5–11 years of age was published in Nutrition and Health and released OnlineFirst at