It’s time to face the truth – we all know that eating fast food is unhealthy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t prevent us from frequently visiting our favorite fast food restaurants. The same logic can be applied to cigarettes – most people know how unhealthy they are, but still decide to purchase them and smoke.
With that being said, we can easily conclude that a lot of people do not put their health first, and they should! Therefore, in today’s article, we will discuss fast food and its effect on our overall health. In addition, we’ll present to you 30 shocking facts that will blow your mind and hopefully change your diet for the better.
Fast Food and Our Health
In a world where people are working longer, spending less time at home, and have no time to cook healthy meals, it comes as no surprise that today’s fast food industry is rapidly growing. In fact, fast food is a huge part of the American diet. But, it puts both young and old Americans in greater danger of developing some serious health problems that can even be life-threatening.
Despite the fact that the health risks of fast food are well-documented, people still opt for this delicious, yet unhealthy option. To help spread awareness, let’s take a look at the devastating effects of regularly eating fast food meals.
How Fast Food Effects Our Body
Food fuels our body and has a direct impact on our overall health and the way we feel. And even though fast food is not necessarily bad, it’s usually highly processed and contains salt (sodium), unhealthy fats, added sugar and large amounts of carbs. In other words, this type of food is rich in calories that offer little or no nutritional value (we call them “empty calories”).
Most people underestimate the number of calories they consume in fast-food restaurants. In fact, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, adolescents and children consume more calories in fast food than at home. The same study found that eating at a fast food restaurant added between 160-310 calories per day.
With that being said, when fast food becomes the primary focus of your diet, it leads to weight gain and poor nutrition and health. To prove our point, let’s take a closer look at the devastating effects of fast food on our body.
Cardiovascular and Digestive Systems – as we already said, fast food meals are rich in carbohydrates which our digestive system breaks into glucose (sugar) and releases into the bloodstream. Our pancreas immediately responds and releases insulin that is in charge of transporting sugar to cells throughout our body. Once the sugar is absorbed, our blood sugar levels drop dramatically, which causes the pancreas to release glucagon that signals the body to use the stored sugars.
Frequently consuming fast food meals rich in unhealthy carbohydrates causes spikes in blood sugar that can alter insulin response and cause type 1 or 2 diabetes.
Fat and Sugar – most people in America consume twice as much sugar than recommended for optimal health. This added sugar has no nutritional value and is high in calories that add up over time and lead to weight gain.
Trans fats found in fast food meals are manufactured, unhealthy fats that are so bad for our health that some countries have banned their use. They raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, lower HDL (good) cholesterol and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Sodium – a higher sodium intake causes our bodies to retain water which makes us feel puffy and bloated. In addition, it contributes to high blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, stomach cancer, kidney diseases, and kidney stones.
Respiratory System – consuming fast food causes weight gain, which in turn increases respiratory problems. Obese people can experience episodes of shortness of breath or wheezing with little exertion. Obesity can also contribute to the development of sleep apnea – the condition when asthma and shallow breathing continually disrupt our sleep. A recent study clearly showed that children who eat fast food meals at least three times per week are at increased risk of rhinitis and asthma.
Central Nervous System – according to a study published in Public Health Nutrition, people who consume fast food meals and baked goods are 51% more likely to develop depression. The more junk food people eat, the more likely they’ll develop depression.
In addition, a study published in the journal Nature suggests that regular consumption of fast food meals may affect the brain’s molecules and synapses related to learning and memory.
Skin – most people blame greasy foods and chocolate for acne, but the reality is that something else is the main culprit – unhealthy and processed carbohydrates. In fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that the increased intake of fast food meals (rich in unhealthy carbs) can trigger acne as well. Moreover, a study in Thorax suggested that children who regularly consume fast food meals are at a higher risk of eczema.
Teeth and Bones – when we eat foods high in sugar and carbs, the bacteria residing in our mouth produce acids that destroy tooth enamel, which can’t be replaced – this is the leading factor in dental cavities and poor oral health.
On the other hand, an increased intake of sodium (salt) increases the risk of developing osteoporosis – a condition when our body makes too little bone or loses too much bone, or even both. As a result, bones become weak and can break easily.
30 Shocking Fast Food Statistics
Now that we know the devastating effects of fast food on our health, it’s time to see some interesting numbers that will probably surprise and shock most people.
- 50 million Americans eat fast food every day.
- 83% of US families eat at least one fast food meal per week.
- There are more than 630,000 fast food restaurants in the U.S.
- Only 4% of Americans claim they do not include fast food in their diet.
- More than 76% of Americans agree that fast food is unhealthy.
- The number one vegetable in America is French Fries (yes, we know that technically it isn’t a vegetable, but you get the point).
- The average American child sees more than 10,000 fast food advertisements on TV per year.
- Most North American children can recognize McDonald’s before they can speak.
- On average, a person in the U.S. consumes 7.64 lbs. of fast food beef per year.
- Even though the caloric intake of Americans is similar to that of Austrians, the U.S. has a 31% obesity rate, compared to Austria’s 9%.
- Back in 2006, Americans spent 142 billion dollars on fast food — $460 per person. This amount is almost enough to end world hunger forever. By 2020, the number is expected to be over $223 billion.
- Countries with more fast food restaurants have higher obesity rates. For example, the obesity rate in the U.S. is significantly higher than in Japan, simply because they have less fast food restaurants.
- McDonald’s has more than 35,000 outlets worldwide. Most of the outlets outside the U.S. are franchises.
- McDonald’s feeds more than 68 million people per day, which is 1% of the world’s population.
- Each month, approximately 9 out of 10 American children visit McDonald’s.
- More than 900 million Big Macs are sold annually around the globe. This means that 2.4 million Big Macs are sold every day.
- If you consume a Big Mac, large fries, and a coke, you’ll need 6 hours of moderate walking to burn up those calories.
- Only seven items on the McDonald’s menu contain NO sugar.
- McDonald’s is Brazil’s largest employer.
- McDonald’s initially didn’t want its customers to stay at the store, so they prohibited all types of entertainment like pinball machines, candy machines, jukeboxes, telephones and newspaper boxes. In addition, they had uncomfortable chairs.
- Partly due to the fast food culture, in the U.S. more than 2 in 3 adults are overweight, while more than 1 in 3 adults are obese. Obesity increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems, and other health issues.
- Eating fast food meals can shorten your life – the risk of dying from heart disease increases by 20% for people who consume fast food meals once per week and almost 80% for those who eat four times per week (according to one study).
- Children who eat fast food on a daily basis do worse in school than their peers.
- A meal consisting of French fries, a burger, and soda contains around 47 grams of unhealthy fat.
- The Triple Whopper sandwich with fries and a soda contains 2,100 calories, 104 grams of unhealthy fat and 2,270 mg of sodium.
- The two most famous fast food drinks, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, are sold in all countries in the world, except North Korea.
- The rise of the automobile industry resulted in flashier fast food restaurants that displayed their signs to catch the driver’s attention.
- Theme parks, the movie industry, and fast food companies have a long and financially lucrative relationship.
- Men are more likely to eat fast food than women, but only by a slim margin.
- Despite cheap prices of fast food meals, people who earn more tend to eat the most.
Even though the health risks of fast food meals are well-known, people still tend to eat this type of unhealthy food on a regular basis. Fast food is full of trans fat, sugar, salt, and calories, while providing no nutritional value for your body. Therefore, frequent consumption of fast food can have serious consequences on our health and can cause major health issues and weight gain.
So the next time you think about a delicious fast food meal, stop for a moment and think about your health instead. After all, it’s the most precious thing we have.