Food is fuel for your body. It has a direct impact on how you feel as well as on your overall health. Fast food isn’t necessarily bad, but in many cases it’s highly processed and contains large amounts of carbohydrates, added sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt (sodium).
These foods are often high in calories yet offer little or no nutritional value. When fast food frequently replaces nutritious foods in your diet, it can lead to poor nutrition, poor health, and weight gain. Tests in lab animals have even shown a negative effect in short duration diets. Being overweight is a risk factor for a variety of chronic health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, most people underestimate the number of calories they’re eating in a fast-food restaurant. A 2013 study published in JAMA Pediatrics showed that children and adolescents take in more calories in fast food and other restaurants than at home. Eating at a restaurant added between 160 and 310 calories a day.
Effects on Society
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the definition of obesity is when your body mass index (BMI) is 30.0 or higher. BMI is a calculation of your height and weight. You can calculate your BMI here. There’s also a category referred to as “extreme obesity,” which is defined as a BMI of 40. Across all race groups, one in three Americans is considered obese while one in 20 is considered extremely obese. Those statistics are higher in the black and Latino communities. Approximately 75 percent of people in these groups who are over age 20 are considered obese.
The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) reports that the number of fast food outlets has doubled since 1970, a period during which the number of obese Americans also doubled. It’s likely that many factors have contributed to the obesity epidemic, but the correlation between the availability of cheap and fattening fast food and national weight increase is stark. Obesity increases the likelihood of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, joint problems, and more. In 2008, obesity-related medical costs were estimated at $147 billion. Diabetes alone was estimated to be responsible for $69 billion just in lost productivity. Numbers like these suggest that the costs of cheap fast food are surprisingly high.