John V. deGuzman, MD
We can all agree that fast food is:
- High in calories
- High in fat (especially saturated and trans fats)
- High in sugar and simple carbohydrates
- High in salt
- Served in large portions (would you like to supersize that?)
- Low in cost
Given these observations, we could also agree that fast food contributes to obesity. But does the data support this? Let’s look at two studies:
Study #1: Fast Food Consumption in Children
Brazilian researchers studied obesity rates with the number of McDonald’s by region. They down a “very strong” relationship between obesity rates in children. But there was no significant relationship in teens 19 years and older. Childhood obesity rates in Brazil have increased 600% over the past forty years. Studies show that more than 30% of the nation’s children are overweight or obese. So what about the United States?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that obesity affects 18.4% of U.S. children ages 6 to 11, and 20.9% of adolescents ages 12 to 19. The report also shows that young people received 13.8% of their calories from fast food between 2015 and 2018, up from 12.4% from 2011 to 2012. The report only contained data up to 2018 and there is great concern that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased reliance on fast food.
Does this mean if you’re over 19 years-old you can eat fast food and not develop obesity?
The answer is a resounding no.
Study #2: Fast Food Consumption in Adults
A Michigan study compared fast-food consumption to the amount of obesity among adults. The study showed that 80% of adults ate fast food at least once a month and 28% went often (2 or more times a week). The number of people with obesity increased with the frequency of eating fast food. 24% of people going less than once a week increased to 33% going three or more times a week.
To Lose Weight, Stop Eating Fast Food
Avoiding the intake of fast food seems to be an excellent way to avoid overweight and obesity at any age. Keep it to a minimum, not a ritual.
Reuter P-G, Alfonso Barbosa Saraiva L, Weisslinger L, De Stefano C, Adnet F, Lapostoole F (2019) Young children are the main victims of fast food-induced obesity in Brazil. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0224114.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) NCHS Data Brief No.375, August 2020.
Anderson B, Rafferty AP, Lyon-Callo S, Fussman C, Imes G. Fast-food consumption and obesity among Michigan adults. Prev Chronic Dis 2011;8(4):A71. http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2011/jul/10_0186.htm.
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