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Fast food: unfriendly and unhealthy

Abstract

Although nutrition experts might be able to navigate the menus of fast-food restaurant chains, and based on the nutritional information, compose apparently ‘healthy’ meals, there are still many reasons why frequent fast-food consumption at most chains is unhealthy and contributes to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. Fast food generally has a high-energy density, which, together with large portion sizes, induces over consumption of calories. In addition, we have found it to be a myth that the typical fast-food meal is the same worldwide. Chemical analyses of 74 samples of fast-food menus consisting of French fries and fried chicken (nuggets/hot wings) bought in McDonalds and KFC outlets in 35 countries in 2005–2006 showed that the total fat content of the same menu varies from 41 to 65 g at McDonalds and from 42 to 74 g at KFC. In addition, fast food from major chains in most countries still contains unacceptably high levels of industrially produced trans-fatty acids (IP-TFA). IP-TFA have powerful biological effects and may contribute to increased weight gain, abdominal obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. The food quality and portion size need to be improved before it is safe to eat frequently at most fast-food chains.

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Acknowledgements

SS and JD declare no conflict of interest. AA is medical advisor for Weight Watchers, and is member of several advisory boards for food producers. The Department of Human Nutrition receives/has received research funding from over 50 Danish and international food companies. Otherwise, I declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to A Astrup.

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Stender, S., Dyerberg, J. & Astrup, A. Fast food: unfriendly and unhealthy. Int J Obes 31, 887–890 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803616

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803616

Keywords

  • trans-fatty acids
  • fast food
  • energy density

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