Fast food has become a part of modern day lifestyle. In a study published in the April 2004 issue of the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition”, one in four adults reported eating fast food . And eating fast food can have negative health consequences. A number of studies have linked eating fast-food to health related problems, such as obesity, poor nutrition, diabetes, heart diseases and stroke. Therefore, it is wise to restrict the consumption of fast-food.
Those going to fast food chains would rarely order a well-balanced meal, which is full of fiber and nutrition . In fact those going to fast-food restaurants are there because they are in a position to compromise healthy diet for convenient, taste and advertising. People have been generally aware of having long term effects of having fast food rich in saturated fat and excessive sodium. But few realize how quickly the consequences begin. As per study by published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, the damage to arteries begins immediately after one junk-food type meal. The study compared the effects of a junk food meal with that of a Mediterranean type meal on the inner lining of blood vessels. The researcher collected the data about that ability of the blood vessels to dilate after a 12 hour fast, and again after two and four hour after having such meal. They found that their arteries dilated 24% less as compared to post 12 hour fasting. This is an indication of hardening of arteries, which can block blood flow. If arteries can harden just after one meal, one can imagine the arterial damage after consistently having fast-food every day.
Fast food and nutritional content
Junk food generally lack in essential nutrients , and those that are present do not provide us with useful energy. They also contain high percent of hydrogenated vegetable oils, which our digestive system finds it hard to digest. The main ingredients of junk foods are: caffeine; phosphoric acid; MSG; Trans fats; artificial colours; artificial flavors; and preservatives. Some of these food additives are not foods but they are actually chemicals considered to be safe.
Many components of fast foods are greasy or fried, and it does not take long for calories and fat to build up. Most of such items are extremely high in cholesterol and sodium. On top of that fast food meals offer very little vitamins and fiber, or other essential nutrients. And lack of all nutrition related information to people at fast food restaurants makes matters worse.
In a study published in the January 2005 issue of the “Lancet”, young adults who had fast food more than twice a week gained 10 more pounds as compared to those who had fast food less than once a week. A similar study in the April 2004 issue of the “Journal of American College of Nutrition” found that the adults who were 20 years of age or over, and who frequently had fast food had a higher body mass index than those who consumed less frequently. A combined order of small fries and a large hamburger has a total of 800 calories, and sweetened drinks add even more on top of it. All these have been linked to obesity in several studies.
In a similar study by researcher at the University of California, Berkeley in 2009 noted that living near a fast food restaurant is linked to 5.2 percent greater risk of obesity.
Diabetes and stroke
In the 2005 study published in the “Lancet”, it was found that eating fast food more than twice a week doubled the risk of insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for diabetes. Similarly, a 2010 Harvard report found link between sweetened soft drinks with increased soft risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In addition, risk of stroke may be related to the number of fast food restaurants in the neighborhood, according to a study published in the “Annals of Neurology” in 2009. In particular, they found that the risk of stroke increased by 1 percent for every fast food restaurant in a Texas neighborhood. Also, fast food has high concentration of Sodium, which increases the risk of high blood pressure. In a similar study in 2004 , it was found that eating fast-food on regular basis doubles your chances of developing insulin resistance. According to “The Guardian”, number of people worldwide having diabetes has more than doubled from 1980 to 2011, which is from 153 million to nearly 350 million.
It is well known that high density of fast food restaurants in the area is linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases . In a 2005 study published in the “Canadian Journal of Public Health”, researcher as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario, found that areas with higher concentration of fast food restaurants are 2.62 times more likely to have extremely high levels of hospitalizations due to coronary problems. A similar study by researchers at the University of South Australia found similar results. Their research, published in the “European Journal of Epidemiology”, found that for each 10 percent in density of fast food restaurants in the region, people are 1.39 times more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases.
Fast food has been associated with increased risk of death, even after ruling out deaths due to cardiovascular diseases. In a 2005 study, the Canadian research found that the regions high in fast food restaurant density are 2.52 times more likely to be extremely high in all-cause mortality. A similar study by the University of South Australia, in 2010, found that with each 10 percent increase in the concentration of fast food restaurants in the region, a 1.36 times increase in risk of all-cause mortality.
Adverse effects of fast-foods are not restricted to adults alone. Children, who eat fast-food on a regular basis, face even greater risk than adults because their condition worsens with age. Like adults, children too are at risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity as a result of fast food consumption. Some studies have even found some causal relation between children’s eating of junk food and their developing hypertension, asthma, and high cholesterol.
The above mentioned factors, in conjunction with lack of complete nutrition in fast foods, may lead to improper growth and development in children and adolescents.
Eating fast food every now and then shouldn’t be considered as bad for health, as long as it is not made a habit . To circumvent this problem, one can restrict the health risks associated with eating of fast foods by making smarter choices. That helps to cut down on the calories, salt and fat in the fast foods. It is recommended that one takes time to look up at a fast food restaurant menu’s nutrition related information.
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