Eating at Fast-Food Restaurants Increases Intake of Calories and Sugar, Study


Eating at fast-food and full-service restaurants lead to an increase in the consumption of calories, sugar, saturated fat and sodium, especially in adults, according to a new study by the University of Illinois Chicago. The researchers said that adults consume about 200 additional total daily calories at these restaurants.

Previous studies showed that adults who ate fast food consumed more calories, fat and sodium; and fewer fruits, vegetables and vitamins as compared to those who did not report eating fast food.

The esearchers said that efforts to improve diet and reduce energy intake from restaurants could also help bridge racial and socio-economic disparities in Americans' diets.

For the study, the researchers used recent data from over 12,000 participants, aged between 20 and 64 years, from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003 (NHANES). In the survey, participants were asked about their visits to fast-food and full-service restaurants on two consecutive days.

The researchers found that on days when participants ate at a fast-food restaurant, there was a net increase of total energy intake (194.49 kcal), saturated fat (3.48 g), sugar (3.95 g) and sodium (296.38 mg). Similar statistics were also recorded for full-service restaurants. The participants were associated with a higher energy intake (205.21 kcal), saturated fat (2.52 g) and sodium (451.06 mg).

The study also observed higher net energy intake in black adults as compared with their white or Hispanic counterparts, and greater for middle-income adults than high-income adults. The researchers said that individual characteristics curbed the impact of restaurant food consumption.

"The United States is one of the most obese nations in the world, with more than one in three adult men and women in defined as obese," said Binh T. Nguyen of the American Cancer Society in a press release. "Just as obesity rates rise, there's been a marked increase in total energy consumption consumed away from home, with about one in four calories coming from fast food or full service restaurants in 2007."

"Our study confirms that adults' fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption was associated with higher daily total energy intake and poorer dietary indicators."

The finding is published in Public Health Nutrition.           

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