Fast Food: An American Epidemic

by Angela Sande Americans have become more obese over the past two decades as fast food becomes more common in the daily American diet. Before the release of films such as “Super Size Me” that helped to expose the dirty truth about the adverse health affects of fast food diets, most fast food chains paid little attention to consumer health and awareness. As a result of this lack of consumer awareness, most Americans who eat or have eaten this high fat, high sodium, high calorie diet on a regular basis are now paying the price, which is much higher than the $3.69 spent on a Quarter Pounder with cheese. fast food

Fast food chains such as Mc Donald’s, Burger King, Jack In The Box and Wendy’s have been some of America’s favorite fast food options offering classics such as the Big Mac, Whopper, Jumbo Jack and the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger; all of which contain hundreds of calories, tons of fat and an alarming content of sodium. For example, the Whopper at Burger King (w/out cheese) contains 680 calories, 40 g. fat (11 g. saturated fat) and 1,020 mg. sodium! That’s more than should be consumed in an entire meal for most people, especially the fat and sodium, not to mention this is JUST the burger and does not account for the entire meal that most people get which includes fries and a soda and, of course, don’t forget to super size that “meal”. As for the other above mentioned classics, here’s the scoop on what you’re really eating: Big Mac at
McDonald’s – 540 calories, 29 g. fat (10 g. saturated fat) and 1,040 mg. of sodium; Jumbo Jack at Jack In The Box – 600 calories, 35 g. fat (12 saturated) and 940 mg. sodium (becomes 1,310 mg. sodium w/ cheese); Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy’s – 310 calories, 16 g. fat (6 g. saturated) and 670 mg. sodium. The Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger seems like the better option, however, it is quite a bit smaller than the other burger options listed. Can you imagine eating one of these burgers (let’s say the Whopper for example), plus large fries and a large Coca Cola, totaling 1,650 calories, 68 g. fat and 2,020 mg. sodium!? It’s not that shocking when the numbers aren’t in front of your face as you order at the window, though. It’s all too common among people and families in a hurry, with parents who don’t have time to make something at home.

Kids meals are smaller (usually), but contain the same dangerous values in ratio to what is offered. These values are a huge reason why Americans, including children, are becoming more obese. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) provides a map that shows the growing trend/epidemic of obesity in the U.S. between 1985 and 2007. The numbers are alarming and are certainly reason for concern regarding our health and dietary habits in the America. Obesity is one of the leading causes for disease in America; diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension (30-50% of people w/ hypertension have high blood pressure that’s sensitive to salt intake), osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, kidney stones and certain cancers. Consuming more calories than you expend and more fat than your body can use in one day will certainly lead to weight gain and, if that behavior continues for long enough, will eventually lead to obesity. This is a huge reason why we all need to pay attention to what we are putting into our bodies and realize what the risks are for eating a diet high in calories, fat, sodium and other potentially dangerous nutrients, if consumed out of moderation.

More recently, fast food chains began offering more healthy options on their menus. Wendy’s offers the option of adding a baked potato, chili or salad to any burger instead of the usual fries. Mc Donald’s also started offering milk and apple slices as beverage and side choices to appeal to parents trying to better monitor their child’s diet. This healthier trend in the fast food world seems to have begun after the 2004 movie, “Super Size Me” released, depicting a man who ate only at Mc Donald’s for every meal, every day for one full month. The affects on his health were shocking to most, but also very enlightening for many Americans (link to movie intro may be seen here on You Tube). I recommend anyone who questions this information to look up the facts (links to some fast food nutritional facts below), watch informative/enlightening videos such as, “Super Size Me” and always stay informed as to what you’re eating and how it may or may not benefit you. After all, your life depends on it.

super size me
See more info at: http://www.cspinet.org/nah/03_05/fastfood.pdf (The Center for Science in the Public Interest, CSPI)


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