Fast Food Really
Does Make You Fat
fast food often does supersize you.
new study gives scientific clout to a conclusion many already
see as obvious: Eating lots of fast food makes you fat and increases
the chance of developing diabetes.
study published in the Lancet medical journal this week found
those who frequently ate fast food gained 10 pounds more than
those who did so less often, and were more than twice as likely
to develop an insulin disorder linked to diabetes.
food is commonly recognized to have very poor nutritional quality,"
said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children's
Hospital Boston and the senior author of the study. "But there
have been very few studies, essentially no long-term studies
that have documented the effects of this dietary pattern on
the key chronic diseases of Western civilization — obesity,
Type 2 diabetes, heart disease."
the absence of such data, the fast-food industry continues to
claim that fast food can be part of a healthful diet," he said.
U.S.-based team followed 3,000 young people enrolled in a study
of cardiac health over 15 years, giving them medical checkups
and asking questions about diet, physical activity and other
after the scientists used statistical techniques to cancel out
the impact of the other factors, those who said they visited
fast-food outlets twice a week or more gained 10 pounds more
over the course of the study than those who ate fast food less
than once a week.
also had more than double the chance of developing insulin resistance,
considered a predictor of Type 2 diabetes, the form of the disease
linked to obesity.
findings suggest that fast food as presently consumed can really
not be part of a healthful lifestyle," Ludwig said.
Astrup, an obesity expert at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural
University in Copenhagen, Denmark, said the study was the first
long-term look at the relationship between fast-food consumption
quite a powerful message," he said. "I'm happy to see that we
have some more solid evidence to substantiate that this is really
said the huge portions at most fast-food restaurants and the
high caloric density of their food were probably responsible
for the obesity link. Because even small amounts of fast food
contain lots of calories, people consume a great deal without
feeling full and soon get hungry again and eat more, he said.
some fast-food chains have begun offering healthier alternatives,
including fruit, Astrup said those were only "weak trends in
the right direction."
an essay accompanying the Lancet article, he suggested the chains
make a more serious effort to boost the quality of their offerings,
by using leaner meats, whole-grain bread, lower-fat fries, low-sugar
soft drinks and more vegetables.
director of nutrition, Dr. Cathy Kapica, said the issue was
not where people ate, but the type of food they chose and the
size of portions.
said McDonald's restaurants had introduced a variety of portion
sizes, were serving more salads and fruit, and were providing
nutritional information on trayliners, in-store brochures and
a Web site.
key is to work together to educate and empower people to make
smart choices when dining and to encourage physical activity,"
Rudolph Leibel, an obesity expert at Columbia University in
New York, said that while the study was sound and its conclusions
likely true, it was important not to demonize fast food as the
sole cause of the obesity epidemic in wealthy nations.
restaurants, he said, are responding to a real societal need
— the inability of many families in which both parents
work to find time to cook for themselves.
restaurants provide a real service by selling cheap, quick food,
Leibel said, arguing that the main problem is in the quality
and health effects of what they serve.
don't think the problem is with fast food per se," he said.
"The problem is that it's the wrong kind of food."
need for improvements there, Leibel said, is the key lesson
of the paper, "and the only way to do that really ... is to
have an informed consumer."
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