Obesity and the Fast-Food Industry Growth in the U.S.

Today, numerous members of the global community are in a rush and often do not have enough time to enjoy a homemade meal. Besides, not everyone can afford a high-quality pricy meal at a restaurant while being on the move. Fast food venues offer a quick and affordable way of satisfying hunger. The Centers for Disease and Prevention revealed that, between 2013 and 2016, on a given day, more than 35% of adults consumed fast food (Fryar et al.).

At the same time, the level of obesity within the American nation is growing, and CDC reports that, in 2016, it affected more than 90 million adults (“Adult Obesity Facts”). Consequently, one might notice the connection between obesity prevalence and the growth of the fast-food industry. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the correlation between obesity and fast food availability and provide possible recommendations for the issue.

First, it is essential to observe the influence of the fast-food industry on food tendencies among Americans. The researchers found that the way people in the US eat has shifted from homemade meals to eating out (Smith et al. 45). People who do not have time or energy to prepare a meal choose a quick option of having various foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, or french fries that are available anywhere at any time. Consequently, people started to consume more away-from-home meals, which led to a reduction in the nutrient density received by the Americans (Smith et al. 46). One can claim that lower nutrition within the human body can have various consequences on the individual’s health.

Curiously, it is possible to say that, besides not offering a sufficient amount of nutrients, fast food options can have other implications. It is crucial to mention that most of the meals served in fast-food restaurants “tend to be energy-dense, poor in micronutrients, high in glycaemic load, low in fiber and, and served in large portions” (Barnes et al. 885). This statement leads to the assumption that high intakes of fast foods can significantly contribute to the dietary habits of individuals and excessive weight.

Some of the studies have discovered that there is a direct connection between the increase in fast food intake and the body mass index (Barnes et al. 885). Thus, one can argue that a high obesity level among Americans can be linked to the shift towards purchasing meals in the highly available fast food restaurant chains.

It is crucial to look at the characteristics of the ingredients that fast-food establishments provide to their customers. The researchers state that the products used for the meals in such venues are high in sodium and cholesterol and low in fiber, magnesium, and other essential elements, such as vitamins A and C (An 101). Hence, lower nutritional value and higher intake of unhealthy items lead to the overall deterioration of health and can lead to weight gain. Although within the last decade, the total energy intake among adults in the US has declined, the numbers remain high (An 101). Those findings emphasize the importance of the change implementation that will lead to health improvement and will decrease the obesity level around the nation.

It is critical to mention that the way adults consume their foods in daily life has a significant influence on the children, which can cause adverse outcomes. The high availability of famous places like MacDonald’s or KFC suggests that fast foods are available to the children and the youth. Besides, all of the fast-food restaurants offer sweetened beverages with meals, which adds to the increase in the meal’s calories.

According to Cantor et al., more than 15% of children and youth in the age below 19 suffer from obesity (2038). The studies have revealed that the families whose houses were within a short distance from a fast-food venue showed increased obesity rates in comparison to the groups that did not have one nearby (Currie et al. 32). From those findings, one can withdraw that with the absence of a fast-food venue next to home, the weight gain and deteriorated health can be avoided. Consequently, fast-food restaurants’ presence can have an impact on the body mass index among both adults and children.

One can suggest that the implementation of social practices and other strategies directed at the decrease in fast-food consumption can help to reduce the obesity level among Americans. By today, various campaigns and regulations come into force in different states around the nation. For instance, in South Los Angeles, a ban on new fast-food venues was imposed, and New York introduced limits on the size of the soft beverages (An 101). Moreover, the public is getting more concerned about the nutritional value of the foods they consume. Deeper concerns lead to various “fast-food industry self-regulation” measures (An 101).

Another finding reveals that despite the presence of taxes on the sweetened beverages that always come with a meal in a fast-food venue, these taxes are still low “to induce a meaningful change” (An 101). Therefore, the increased awareness of the society and the initiatives taken within particular states represent that willingness to improve the situation and fight obesity that is connected to the ‘junk’ food availability and promotion.

One of the possible recommendations that are based on the connection of fast-food availability and obesity level is to increase the taxes for the ingredients, which will lead to higher prices. Today, fast-food venues offer affordable prices, which does not make people think twice in terms of their budget when it comes to lunch in MacDonald’s, for example. However, higher costs might encourage people to dedicate some time to prepare a lunch box at home, which will provide them with better nutrients during the day.

Also, investing in campaigns that promote healthy eating habits might be beneficial. Those activities can lead to the lower convenience of eating in fast-food restaurants, improve individuals’ health, help some people lose weight, and prevent others from gaining extra mass.

Some of the studies have proved that the fast food industry growth influences the obesity level in the US. However, other studies claim that the intake of fast meals does not impact the body mass index. For example, Just and Wansink concluded that “the association between the intake frequency of fast food, soft drinks, and candy and BMI was negative” (126).

The paragraphs above mention the findings that reveal the nutrient density of fast food items containing sodium and cholesterol, which negatively influences health and can cause excessive weight. Thus, it is still fundamental for society to gain knowledge on the actual value of fast-food meals and have an encouragement to rethink the way of meal consumption.

In conclusion, the widespread fast food establishments transformed Americans’ eating habits. As a result, people started to consume foods that are low in nutrient density and lack essential vitamins necessary for a healthy body and mind. Fast-food popularity became one of the causes of a high percentage of obesity among children and adults in the US. Through raising awareness and lowering the dominance of powerful fast-food chains, the obesity level can be decreased. The integration of different campaigns and regulations can positively change the situation.

Works Cited

Adult Obesity Facts.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018. Web.

An, Ruopeng. “Fast-Food and Full-Service Restaurant Consumption and Daily Energy and Nutrient Intakes in US Adults.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 70, no. 1, 2016, pp. 97-103.

Barnes, Timothy L., et al. “Fast-food Consumption, Diet Quality and Body Weight: Cross-sectional and Prospective Associations in a Community Sample of Working Adults.” Public Health Nutrition, vol. 19, no. 5, 2016, pp. 885-892.

Cantor, Jonathan, et al. “Correlates of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Purchased for Children at Fast-Food Restaurants.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 106, no. 11, 2016, pp. 2038-2041.

Currie, Janet, et al. “The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity and Weight Gain.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, vol. 2, no. 3, 2010, pp. 32–63.

Fryar, Cheryl D., et al. Fast Food Consumption Among Adults in the United States, 2013–2016. 2018. Web.

Just, David R., and Brian Wansink. “Fast Food, Soft Drink, and Candy Intake is Unrelated to Body Mass Index for 95% of American Adults.” Obesity Science & Practice, vol. 1, no. 2, 2015, pp. 126-130.

Smith, Lindsey P., et al. “Trends in US Home Food Preparation and Consumption: Analysis of National Nutrition Surveys and Time Use Studies From 1965–1966 to 2007–2008.” Nutrition Journal, vol. 12, no. 1, 2013, pp. 45-55.