With all the news of the growing obesity epidemic, a lot of stories have focused on fast food. Now, a new study suggests that eating a lot of fast food not only leads to weight gain, but it also may lead to a host of other health issues linked to heart disease and cancer development.
This might be one of those ‘duh’ studies but for those of us who go out to eat frequently, it’s nice to see a study that differentiates between fast food and sit-down style restaurants, as this study did. (Most studies on this issue group all restaurants together.)
In the study, the University of North Carolina researchers looked at data spanning 13 years from 3,643 young adults who were participants in a cardiovascular study. The cardiovascular study – called CARDIA – collected data on the participants every few years.
The goal was to see how eating away from home related to a cluster of factors associated with the metabolic syndrome, including a high BMI, large waist, and high blood pressure. Metabolic syndrome puts people at higher risk for heart disease, but a lot of studies have shown it also puts them at risk for cancer development. This makes sense, given that AICR’s new report found obesity causes an estimated 100,000 cases of cancer a year.
Overall, compared to the diners who ate the least fast food, those diners who ate at fast food places the most often weighed more, had larger waists, higher triglycerides, and showed many of the other signs of metabolic syndrome. Eating at sit-down style restaurants was unrelated to these risk factors. But whether it was at a fast food or sit-down restaurant, people who increased the amount of times they ate out per week over the course of the study experienced a slight increase in weight and waste size.
Want some help choosing what to eat at restaurants? Many fast food places have their nutritional information online. You can also find a lot of the places on one site at Fatburgr.
For those sit-down meals, visit Health Tips for Dining Out for some simple restaurant strategies.