restaurant food calories
August 8, 2014

No Surprise Here – Fast Food And Chain Restaurants Are Both Linked To Poor Nutrition

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

No one is surprised when they hear that eating at a fast food restaurant is bad for their health. It might surprise you to know, however, that full service restaurants aren't much better.

A new study, published online in Public Health Nutrition, reveals that, for adults, eating at both fast food and full service restaurants can be linked to significant increases in the intake of calories, sugar, saturated fat and sodium. The researchers also document that on days when adults eat at either type of restaurant, their daily caloric intake rises by about 200 calories.

As might be expected, prior research on restaurant food consumption revealed that adults who report eating fast food consume more calories, fat and sodium. These same adults report eating fewer fruits, vegetables and vitamins when compared to those who did not report eating fast food. Meals eaten at both styles of restaurants have been associated with higher caloric intake.

Data from more than 12,000 participants between the ages of 20 and 64 was collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003 (NHANES). NHANES is a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) initiative to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the US using both interviews and physical examination. Respondents were asked to report visits to fast food and full service restaurants on two successive days.

The researchers, Binh T. Nguyen of the American Cancer Society and Lisa M. Powell of the University of Illinois at Chicago, found on days when eating 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). Full service restaurant days were linked with an energy intake (205.21 kcal), and with higher intake of saturated fat (2.52 g) and sodium (451.06 mg).

Individual characteristics, such as gender and race, were found to mitigate the impact of restaurant food consumption. For example, net energy intake was higher for black adults when compared to white or Hispanic adults. Net energy intake was also found to be higher in middle-income adults when compared to high-income adults.

"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 Dr. Nguyen in a statement. "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 researchers would like to see their findings used for policy making decisions. The larger adverse effect measured on energy intake for some lower socio-economic and minority populations were disturbing, and they believe these could be addressed with efforts to improve diet and reduce energy intake from restaurant sources. Such policies could work to reduce racial and socio-economic disparities in the American diet.

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