Fast food in the form of burgers, fries, and sodas have become a part of western culture to such an extent that the most prevalent distinction for western society today is that of the “Fast Food” culture (Obesity In America: Large Portions, Large Proportions, 1-5). In nearly every western city there are groceries, shopping malls and restaurants that carry some form of fast food that is rapidly consumed by the public that enjoys the taste and convenience of such products (Menifield et al., 83-86). Unfortunately, this cultural distinction is actually slowly killing the global population due to the negative effects these types of food have on the body. The problem with junk food is that due to their convenience and serving size, most people are not aware that on average they consume more than what they need resulting in obesity which leads to health complications in the future.
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An average adult male should consume only 65 grams of fat and 2,500 calories in a single day, yet, a burger and fries combo meal with a large coke available at the local McDonald’s is equivalent to more than 50 grams of fat and 1,500 calories within a single sitting (Obesity In America: Large Portions, Large Proportions, 1-2). This would not be a problem should that be the only large meal they eat throughout the day, however, this meal is supplemented by various chips, sodas and other unhealthy options which brings the total calorie count to 4,000 calories or more (Obesity In America: Large Portions, Large Proportions, 3-5)..
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Populations in the U.S. and U.K. have an obesity problem that much is certain, nearly 33% of adults within these regions are obese which represents a 60% increase over a 20 year period with the rate for child obesity not far behind at nearly triple what it was 30 years ago (Ledikwe et al. 905-906). What these figures represent is nearly 300,000 deaths a year from obesity related illnesses and maladies. Billions of dollars and pounds are spent on health problems related to obesity each which consist of issues such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Obesity brought about through fast food can thus be classified as a growing epidemic that is continuing to proliferate itself throughout various societies affecting not only adults but children as well.
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Comparison to Healthy Food
On average, the human body only requires 2,000 to 2,500 calories within a single day to properly function, any excess calories are usually stored as fat by the body for future use. With fast food diets often exceeding the daily allotted calories needed by the body, this results in a large proportion of the consumed calories turning into fat. The inherent caloric content of fast food is composed mainly of carbohydrates, fats and increasingly high amounts of sugar which have been shown to contribute to the rapid occurrence of obesity. In comparison, healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats have been to shown to promote healthy bodies due to the limited amount of excess fats, carbohydrates and chemicals that are in such foods. In fact, articles such as “Fast food linked to childhood asthma and eczema” showed how fast food had a contributing effect towards the development of illnesses such as eczema and asthma among children while healthy food promoted stronger and healthier bodies (BBC News, 1). This reveals how eating healthy food promotes a far better state of living as compared to a diet consisting of junk food.
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The Way Forward
It is my belief that the problem is not fast food per say, rather, it is the manner in which it is presented to people and how parents teach their children how to consumer it. For example, in the Olstand and McCargar (2009) study they stated that if parents acted as effective role models when it came to the way they ate, this in turn would influence children resulting in the development of better long term eating habits. Based on this, it can be seen that the problem is not the consumption of fast food; rather, it is the manner in which people are taught how to consume it that creates a problem. If people are taught to consume fast food in moderation as children, this translates into more moderate junk food eating habits when they are adults (Olstad and McCargar, 551-565). As such, it can be seen that it is the manner in which a child is taught how to eat that truly makes a difference rather than focusing on what they eat.
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When examining the degree of the problem, the Olstad and McCargar study reveals that only 42% of children who come to school actually opted to eat at their school’s cafeteria (which had healthy lunch options). The remainder choose to bring their own lunches or have their lunches handed over the fence to them by their parents. Unfortunately, most of these lunches were composed of unhealthy fast food options which can cause serious long term health problems after consistent consumption over several years. Taking this into consideration, it can be seen that significant changes need to be implemented in the way in which parents feed their children and how they teach them how to eat.
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Based on the study of Radnitz (2009), it can be seen that the current marketing practices that are utilized by various food companies that seek to influence consumers to buy their products are a contributing factor to the problem of obesity that various societies now face. This is due to the prevalence of fast food advertisements in popular culture which influences people to such an extent that it causes them to buy the products of these companies (Radnitz, 230-233). What must be understood is that popular culture programming in the form of various commercials does have a significant influence on the way in which people eat. Food commercials act as food cues which cause people to desire to eat a particular type of food. The problem though is that with these commercials running constantly, this has resulted in more people desiring to eat unhealthy fast food.
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While many people state that an obese person becomes that way by choice, I believe that they are made that way due to external influences that affects their ability to think. On average nearly 10,000 TV ads appear within a given year which focus on promoting fast food products. Children in particular are targeted by different commercials advertising sugary sweets through the use of cleverly crafted cartoonish elements in the commercial itself. Since TV advertisements are an extension of popular culture, it can be seen that popular culture is one of the primary reasons behind the obesity problem that the U.S. and U.K. now face as a result of fast food consumption due to this patronage of products that are not only unhealthy but cause people to become obese as a result of their consumption. The power of advertising should not be underestimated since it has been shown that TV ads are one of the best ways to convince people to buy a certain product. From this, it can be seen that the causes behind obesity and the various health issues that come with it is not merely the fast food culture that Americans and the British find themselves in but also the actions of various corporations that promote with wild abandon their products without taking into consideration the possible ramification on the population.
The best method of resolving the problems associated with fast food is not to target it directly, since there is no way to prevent a person from eating, rather, a more effective method would be to encourage healthier eating habits early on through parents while at the same time reduce the amount of commercials that relate to fast food so as to prevent people from desiring to eat it on a daily basis.
Summary of Your Source
Olstad and McCargar (2009) presents the notion in their study that by adjusting parental involvement in a child’s health practices which include adhering to proper diets, physical activity and presenting oneself as a proper role model, early onset child obesity can be constrained and prevented despite the consumption of junk food.
Data collection for the Olstand and McCargar study consisted primarily of academic research utilizing statistics, books and journal articles. It delved into the use of parenting practices as a means of developing the behaviour of children in such a way that it would result in positive behaviour outcomes regarding the consumption of food. Olstand and McCargar stated that if parents acted as effective role models when it came to the way they ate, this in turn would influence children resulting in the development of better long term eating habits. The reason why this source is of value is that it showcases the importance of parental intervention in the development of proper eating habits. It shows that the problem is not the consumption of junk food per say, rather, it is the manner in which people are taught how to consume it that creates a problem. If people are taught how to consume junk food in moderation as children, this translates into more moderate junk food eating habits when they are older.
Food cues in children’s television programs.
Summary of Your Source
The constant marketing practices employed by various corporations that seek to influence consumers to buy their products are actually a contributing factor to the problem of obesity that various societies now face due to their constant use in popular culture advertisements which influences consumers to such an extent that it causes them to buy the products of these companies.
This study examined the eating behaviours of various children and showed that the amount of food consumed is directly affected by outside environmental food cues. The study showed that advertisements trigger a response which causes the feeling of hunger which in turn causes a person to eat. It is based on this that the feeling of being hungry and the desire to eat junk food or fast food is attributed to the concept of desire which refers to a child’s desire to eat more food versus the amount their body actually needs. When it comes to food cues, children wind up eating more than what they need since the advertisements and the junk food associated with them make them hungry. The reason this study is valuable is how it correlates the various advertisements and promotions utilized by companies to promote their junk food products which in turn causes children to want to eat them. This results in the development of food cues related to junk food which causes children to want to eat junk food well into adulthood.
BBC News,. “Fast-food ‘linked to childhood asthma and eczema’.” BBC News Health. BBC, n.d. Web.
Ledikwe, Jenny H., Julia A. Ello-Martin, and Barbara J. Rolls. “Portion Sizes And The Obesity Epidemic.” Journal Of Nutrition 135.4 (2005): 905-909.Print.
Menifield, Charles E., Nicole Doty, and Audwin Fletcher. “Obesity In America.” ABNF Journal 19.3 (2008): 83-88.Print.
“Obesity In America: Large Portions, Large Proportions. (Cover Story).” Harvard Men’s Health Watch 10.6 (2006): 1-5.Print.
Olstad, Dana Lee, and Linda McCargar. “Prevention Of Overweight And Obesity In Children Under The Age Of 6 Years.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism 34.4 (2009): 551-570.Print
Radnitz, Cynthia. “Food Cues In Children’s Television Programs.” Appetite 52.1 (2009): 230-233.Print