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Many Kids Don’t Eat Right Or Brush Teeth

One-quarter of America’s schoolchildren don’t eat fruits or vegetables every day or brush their teeth every night, and half of them think apple juice has more fat than whole milk, a nationwide survey has found.

The survey’s sponsors say the message is clear: Bad health habits as well as good ones start early.

The survey was conducted by the American Health Foundation, a private research organization, and Scholastic Inc., a publisher.

Dr. Ernst L. Wynder, the foundation’s president, said the findings show Americans are doing a poor job of educating youngsters about healthful ways of living.

“Rather than blame the children, we should blame ourselves,” he said.

Wynder released the survey findings Tuesday at a conference sponsored by the American Cancer Society. It was based on a questionnaire distributed to 3,112 children in grades two through six.

“These statistics knock you out of your chair,” commented Dr. Edward J. Sondik, acting director of the National Cancer Institute.

Among the findings:

24 percent had eaten no fruit and 25 percent had eaten no vegetables the previous day.

24 percent had not brushed their teeth the night before.

15 percent said they think cheese is a good source of fiber. (It’s not.) And 16 percent said fiber reduces the risk of cancer. (It does.)

48 percent said they think apple juice (which contains no fat) has more fat than whole milk (which has a lot). Moreover, 36 percent said watermelon has more fat than American cheese.

7 percent said aspirin is an illegal drug.

12 percent said they do not believe AIDS can be passed from person to person. Another 12 percent said AIDS is caused by vaccination.

7 percent said they plan to smoke cigarettes, while 15 percent said they are not sure. Eleven percent of the sixth-graders already had smoked, and 34 percent had tried alcohol.