What is the Connection Between Fast Foods and Obesity?

Elle Jay

Linking fast foods and obesity is not difficult. Most fast-food menus are overrun with high-fat, low-nutrition offerings known to cause obesity when eaten regularly. Fast-food restaurants are popular despite the fact that many quick, cheap meals are not considered part of a healthy diet. Busy lifestyles invite the ease and convenience of a junk-food diet, but the health risks associated with fast foods and obesity can be deadly.

Fast food.
Fast food.

Fast food is widely accepted because it is convenient, easy, and cheap, but quick and simple do not always equal nutritious and healthy. Fast food is referred to as junk food for a reason; it provides few of the nutrients required for a healthy, well-balanced diet. The term fast food does not just define drive-through fare, either. Quick snacks and many microwave meals are part of the fast-food group found to boost obesity rates.

Foods that are high in fat and calories, like pizza, can cause weight gain and other health problems.
Foods that are high in fat and calories, like pizza, can cause weight gain and other health problems.

A number of studies prove the link between eating fast foods and obesity. Statistically, the incidence of obesity is higher in areas where fast food outlets are most plentiful. It is also thought that fast food is a major contributor to childhood obesity, which is a serious health risk and proven cause of type 2 diabetes.

Eating unhealthy foods, like junk food, can cause obesity in people of any age.
Eating unhealthy foods, like junk food, can cause obesity in people of any age.

The term obesity indicates a body weight significantly over the recommended healthy weight for a given height. Healthy weight is usually determined by calculating body mass index (BMI). The BMI formula divides body weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters (kg/m2), or body weight in pounds by height in inches squared and then multiplied by 703 (lb/in2x703). A person with BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Obesity may increase risk of heart attack.
Obesity may increase risk of heart attack.

Eating fast foods more than twice a week can lead to obesity, which in turn can cause a variety of health problems. Research indicates that obese individuals are more likely to die at a young age. Additionally, obesity contributes to serious diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, and cancer. In fact, higher incidence of obesity is directly related to an increase in type 2 diabetes.

Foods that are fried with a lot of oils can be fattening.
Foods that are fried with a lot of oils can be fattening.

The tie between fast foods and obesity can be severed with healthy food choices, even when dining out or eating on the run. Many fast-food chains have added healthier options to the menu such as salads and fruit. Reducing portion sizes can also reduce the trend toward obesity in people who consume fast food regularly. Substituting a side salad for fries can cut calories and ease the negative impact of fast food on nutrition.

Fast food is considered junk food because it provides few nutrients required for a healthy diet.
Fast food is considered junk food because it provides few nutrients required for a healthy diet.
Obesity can be caused from over indulging in high calorie snacks.
Obesity can be caused from over indulging in high calorie snacks.
Food companies manufacture junk food to be extremely addictive, which leads to overeating.
Food companies manufacture junk food to be extremely addictive, which leads to overeating.
Obese individuals are at an increased risk for developing sleep apnea.
Obese individuals are at an increased risk for developing sleep apnea.
Children who consume fast food may be more prone to obesity and juvenile diabetes.
Children who consume fast food may be more prone to obesity and juvenile diabetes.
Eating healthier food, such as fruits and vegetable, is sometimes viewed as being less convenient than fast food.
Eating healthier food, such as fruits and vegetable, is sometimes viewed as being less convenient than fast food.

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Discussion Comments

Fa5t3r

@browncoat - I think the problem goes deeper than just a lust for money. There are all kinds of factors at play. One, for example, is the ubiquity of corn syrup in almost every processed product on the market, because of government subsidies for corn production.

High fructose corn syrup is strongly linked to obesity and ill health. If it wasn't so cheap and available, it wouldn't be put into so many items on fast food menus.

browncoat

@clintflint - The thing is, fast food restaurants are only interested in their bottom line and they do everything they can to seduce people into eating more of their product. They put whatever they can into the food to make it more appealing, even if they add huge amounts of calories by doing so.

It's definitely not a shock that frequenting fast food restaurants and obesity are linked, because if you try to make calorie rich foods as addictive as possible, you are going to end up making a lot of people fat.

This is why I think that it's not a bad thing to tax certain kinds of food. If the restaurants have a real financial incentive to make their meals healthier they will do so. If not, they never will.

clintflint

Using BMI to determine obesity isn't always accurate. It was originally developed as a way to measure average weight across large groups of people, rather than to measure it in individuals and it doesn't take muscle mass or bone density or even age into account.

Besides, weight as a number isn't a good indication of overall health. Someone who is thin and eats fast food all the time is probably going to be more unhealthy than someone who is larger and eats organic vegetables most of the time.

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