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Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

Parents' education level can affect how healthy their children's diets are, says study

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The amount of time parents spent in the classroom may affect how healthy – or not – their children's diets are.

A new study appearing in the journal Public Health Nutrition looked at more than 14,000 children from eight European nations and found that parents with less education fed their children sugary and fatty foods more often than parents with higher education levels did.

The latter, on the other hand, were found to feed their children more nutritious food, including fruits and vegetables.

Researchers looked at kids in Italy, Estonia, Cyprus, Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, Germany and Spain. But Katie Chapmon, a registered dietitian for Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center, says that trend holds in the U.S. too. It's not necessarily that people with more education are more knowledgeable specifically about nutrition – many of them aren't, she said.

"But what we do tend to see is that those who do have the college degree or high school diploma, a higher level of education, tend to be more avid readers," said Chapmon. "They tend to seek out more information. So that could give them a leg up on the nutrition factor."

She added that folks with less education "tend to have a lower income level."

"With that lower income level, they can make [nutrition] decisions based on convenience, or what is perceived as expensive, or easy to prepare," she said.

On the whole, both income and education levels in South Los Angeles are low – most households make less than $20,000 annually, according to the L.A. Times' Mapping L.A. project. Additionally, a little more than half of South L.A. residents who are 25 and older haven't received their high school diploma. About 1 in 5 people in that age group stopped going to school after receiving their high school diploma, and just over 8 percent have a college degree or higher.

Chapmon noted that March is National Nutrition Month, and anyone looking to learn more about nutrition – for themselves or their children – can look to the American Academy of Nutrition or the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a starting resource.

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