Fast Food Impact On Obesity In United States Research Papers Example

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Obesity, Food, Fast Food, Social Issues, Health, Restaurants, Population, Overweight

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/31

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Modern world is full of delicious foods, a significant part of which does not have any useful nutrition and bring only harm to our health. Many foods have hundreds of harmful calories that transfer into fat in our bodies. Thus, weight gain has close connections to the foods we eat. Many people tend to say that ‘you are what you eat’ and this phrase actually represents the reality. Eating wrong foods is not the only trigger for the obesity level to increase, because a person may have metabolism medical conditions that negatively influence the weight. However, healthy lifestyle, which includes rational eating and physical activity, help to prevent obesity and to achieve healthier and younger body for everyone. With tones of fast food restaurants and their location availability and price affordability, population of the world is gaining weight and obesity becomes a real problem. Therefore, fast food restaurants have a direct influence on the health of population in United States and lead to the increase in obesity.
Overweight and obesity among population in United States is the issue that is at constant interest, because health control always plays a crucial role in society, while obesity extremely negatively influences health. Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is a large nonprofit organization that works with the purpose to eliminate hunger and lack of nutrition in the United States. FRAC has conducted a research, and the results indicated that since 1970s, the level of obesity for both adults and children has more than doubled and that overweight and obesity are one of the most important public health issue in the U.S. In addition, this center reveled the statistical data, which indicates that:

Almost 69% of adults suffer from obesity or overweight, among whom approximately 35% are actually obese;

Around 17% of children and teenagers suffer from obesity, while 32% are obese or overweight (Frac.org).
We can see that approximately the third of population in the U.S. is obese, which makes the topic of obesity and its prevention a hot public issue. Various factors that influence obesity rates and prevalence of fast food restaurants is one of those factors. Discovering the relationship between fast food service industry and obesity can generate useful recommendations and insights for the future solution of the problem. Not only adults, but also children suffer from overweight and obesity, and its impact on health and the fact that it can potentially cause heart problems make obesity the issue of high concern.
Fast food availability is rapidly increasing, and the prices for the fast food meals are relatively low. Thus, availability and affordability of fast food become one of the determinants for the obesity rates. For instance, in Unites States, approximately 65% of schools have a place that serves fast food meals within 0.5-mile distance. Close location of fast food restaurants to schools significantly rises the possibility of overweight and obesity among children and teenagers, and it is not a coincidence (Currie, Vigna, Moretti & Pathania, 2009). This finding is one of the representative examples of negative impact of fast food restaurants on the obesity levels among the U.S. population.
First, it is essential to understand what fast food is and what obesity is. One of the articles published in the International Journal of Obesity suggests that currently many fast food restaurant claim that they can offer high nutrition meals to their customers, however, even though with the nutritional information of different products they can make ‘healthy’ foods, fast food remains unhealthy and can lead to diabetes and heart diseases. Fast food meals have high energy density, and the portions of these meals are usually large, which means consumers have a high intake of unhealthy calories. Moreover, people have a misconception about the fact that fast food meals in worldwide chains such as McDonalds or KFC have the same nutrition in all the locations. The research showed that the amount of fat in a meal varies in different countries for both of those fast food restaurants. What is more, fast foods represent the meals that contain high amounts of trans-fat acids that have potential danger to one’s health (Stender, Dyerberg & Astrup).
Further, as we can already see that fast food meals have an influence on our health and contain various unhealthy ingredients and fats, at the same time being extremely high in calories, we have to understand what obesity is what are the causes of obesity and why it can be a problem for the population. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offer the following definition of obesity: “Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height” (Cdc.gov). The scientists and nutritionists have designed a special measure, which is a “body mass index”, which indicates the level of weight for an individual, taking into consideration his current weight and height. This index is individual-specific and shows whether a person has a healthy weight, underweight, or overweight and obesity. Besides the fact that obesity leads to various health diseases, and some of them we have described above (hypertension, cancer, stroke, liver disease, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, coronary heart disease and diabetes), obesity also has an impact on the economy of the country. Serious health problems caused by obesity imply high direct and indirect health care costs. For example, the data analysis for the year 2008 showed that obesity costs for the United States were approximately $147 billion, which is significant cost for the economy of the country (Cdc.gov).
The next cause for obesity and overweight can be a lack of sleep and watching too much television. The thing is that modern television if full of fast food advertisements and it can directly influence what people will prefer to eat. The advertisements make fast food look delicious and do not emphasize the nutrition information of those meals. Moreover, not having a healthy sleep is also a risk factor for obesity, because letting the body have appropriate rest can cause the slowdown of metabolism, which, in turn, leads to extra weight. Harvard School of Public Health also defines modern environment in society as a toxic environment and claims that the environment is quite toxic to lead a healthy lifestyle. Social and public life is full of unhealthy foods and drinks that have appealing advertisements, exercising in sports clubs is very expensive, but there not enough of safe outside places to exercise, and tones of junks foods are sold at schools and at offices, not offering healthy fresh food options for the consumers. Thus, there are various reasons that cause obesity, and we can trace that availability of fast foods plays a crucial role in those reasons. For sure, sometimes a person cannot control the weight without professional help of the specialists due to the inner processes in the body. However, an individual can make a choice about his style of living and decide whether he or she wants to have a healthy weight and healthy body, or to follow all of the indulgencies and gain unhealthy fat (Hsph.harvard.edu).
There are numerous evidences that prove the fact that frequent consumption of fast food meals leads to overweight and obesity and increases the chances to have health problems. Currently different documentary movies about fast food are available for the population, and one of them is “Super-Size Me”, which was filmed by Morgan Spurlock in 2004. This documentary set an experiment, in which Spurlock ate only foods from McDonalds every day three times a day for thirty days. The results of the experiment showed that Morgan Spurlock gained 11 kilograms in one month of eating only fast food. Without any doubt, it is very unlikely that someone will be consuming fast food with such a frequency, but even this experiment shows the influence of fast food meals on our weight and bodies. Following this movie, The American population study Cardia conducted a researched, the results of which indicated that a person who ate in the fast food restaurant more than twice a week gained 4.5 kilograms more than an individual who ate regular homemade or quality restaurant foods (Stender, Dyerberg & Astrup).
The debate “Fast Food: Unfriendly and Unhealthy” suggests that there are several factors that make fast food cause obesity. Those factors are portion size, energy density, industrially produced trans-fat and fat content in fast food menus. First, the more the portion size, the more an individual is likely to eat. The studies show that at the fast food restaurants the size of the portions has significantly increased over the past fifty years, which makes the portions size in KFC, for example, too large for one meal. Next, fast foods have extremely high energy density, which relates to the ration of content of energy in food to the food weights. Usually, the average energy density for a fast food restaurant is 1000 kJ for 100 grams, which is more than 60% higher than a normal nutrition. This is also an important factor on why fast foods have such a close connection to the obesity rates. Moving forward, fast food meals contain high level of industrially produced trans-fat. The researches have showed that intake of trans-fat is the most risky out of other fats for the weight gain and heart problems, because they represent not vegetable and healthy fats, but the fats that are the result of industrial production. In addition, fast food restaurant started to print the nutrition information for the meals they are offering. Therefore, a person has a choice of foods, but most of foods in fast food restaurants are high in calories and in unhealthy fats, while many people not always pay attention to the fat and sodium level in the meal. Thus, we can see that fast food restaurants are offering the meals with the components that have a direct negative influence on health and weight, causing obesity and diseases. In a modern society many people live in fast pace and often consume fast food due to the lack of time, not giving enough consideration of the nutrition of those meals, and fast food restaurants are taking advantage of this (Stender, Dyerberg & Astrup).
Another important evidence of fast food meals close connection to the increase of obesity rates is the prices of fast foods. Contemporary Economic Policy magazine has published an article that contains a research about how prices at fast food restaurant affect the obesity level among adults. The study made parallels between increases and decreases in fast food prices, and discussed the outcomes of those pricing policies on the weight gain for adults. The article indicates that according to the United States Department of Agriculture the level of food-away-from-home consumption has increased from 10% to more than 37% in the period from 1963 to 2008. The findings showed that an increase in prices by 10% leads to the lower body mass index for the people from low-income households and average-income households with children. The study reveals that lower-income families have high predisposition for the obesity and overweight, because they often cannot afford consuming healthier food options due to their prices. In addition, lower prices for fast food meals led to the higher BMI, which one more times proves the relationship between fast food consumption and weight gain (Han & Powell).
One more significant issue that was mentioned above is fast food advertisement. This advertisement has a crucial effect especially on the younger part of population. American Psychological Association states that over the past 25 years the levels of obesity for the youth and children has increased by three times, which is a terrifying change. In the modern world, children and teenagers are highly exposed to various types of media, such as internet, television, video games. Various media sources have a high concentration of advertisings for non-nutrition foods and drinks and are extremely appealing to children. Thus, kids and teenagers start to crave for unhealthy food options and often start to beg their parents to purchase fast food meals, because they offer so many interesting features, as gift toys, for example. The thing is that children possess a greater ability to recall the content of advertisements that adults do, and, consequently, they recall the advertisements when they constantly see the fast food restaurants locations around in the street, or close to schools. It is crucial to control the nutrition that children get accurately for the healthy development of their bodies and in order to eliminate the risks of potential overweight and obesity (Apa.org).
The relationship between the intensive spread of fast food restaurants and overweight and obesity is a critical issue for various studies. The book “Geographies of Obesity: Environmental Understandings of the Obesity Epidemic” outlines a study that suggests that close neighboring of fast food outlets for black New Yorkers leads to the high levels of obesity. What is interesting, the study states that there is no correlation for this part of population in terms of income level, and those New Yorkers consume fast food meals in neighboring restaurant despite the changes in prices. Thus, the authors of the book claim that the fact that there is high density of fast food restaurants in various locations almost doubles the risk of obesity for the society. As the result of these studies, the book offers a concept of food desert, which can be defines as an area where there is a very low concentration of food retailers that offer fresh healthy foods at affordable prices and high concentration of low prices fast food outlets. Thus, availability of foods plays an essential role in the food consumption habits, and while fast food restaurants keep establishing new venues all over the country, the population is highly endangered for the risk of overweight and obesity (Pearce & Witten, 261).
Thus, we can observe that there is a critical issue of fast food distribution on the territory of the United States and of overweight and obesity increase among the country’s population. Despite the fact that fast food contain many poor for our health ingredients, there are certain aspects that keep fast foods important for various layers of the society. Therefore, fast food remains to be the major protein source for the low-income households. While low-income households are at the highest risks to become obese due to spread of cheap fast food restaurants, they at the same time do not have sufficient funds to purchase other protein sources, such as chicken or eggs due to their prices, and the only option for protein intake for them is fast food meals. As the result, it is crucial to look at the prices of the fast foods, because they have quite controversial implications to the life of the society. When the country makes a decision to implement the policies that will raise prices in fast food restaurants with the purpose to decrease obesity rates and eliminate overweight issue connected to the constant consumption of fast foods, it should offer other policies that will help low-income families to get substitutes for the proteins at affordable prices (Han & Powell).
We can see that obesity is a serious issue for the population of the world, and of United States in particular. Various factors can cause obesity and overweight among adults and children, and fast food restaurants take a significant place among these causes. Various studies has proven that the spread of fast food popularity and their access and affordability have a direct influence on the obesity rates among the population. In the modern world, fast food restaurants are gaining popularity very rapidly, and many people have a temptation to consume fast food meals, because it is convenient, not time-consuming, and tasty. Even office workers often go to the fast food locations during lunch break, because they often simply do not have enough time to bring homemade meals to work or purchase higher-costs meals in other restaurants. In combination with sitting work and lack of sleep and physical activity, fast foods create a bubble, in which unhealthy weight has a room for expansion.
Moreover, it is important to discuss the role of generation in the issue of fast food popularity and obesity. Currently the prevailing part of population is Generation Y, which in total composes approximately 71 million of population. The representatives of this population were born in 1990s, and their habits and tastes were partially formed by the social trends of that time. Therefore, with loads of different brand, representatives of Generation Y do not have strong commitments to certain brands. I addition, in the period of their childhood, fast food restaurants started to gain their popularity and to spread all over the world. For example, Happy Meals at McDonalds were a boom at that time, and members of this generation created close connections to the discovering of those times. Thus, the members of Generation Y were raised in the times when fast food started to emerge rapidly and started to expose children to their colorful and attractive advertisements. Therefore, we can trace close relationship between Generation Y and fast food restaurant, which implies that those people can be at high risk of becoming obese, or they became obese at their youth years, which creates the current statistical data for the rate of obesity in United States (Schroer).
In conclusion, it is important to say that based on the research and numerous evidence, it becomes obvious that fast food restaurants have close ties to the obesity problem in United States and they negatively influence health of the population. Fast food meals represent convenient food, because they are quick in preparation, always available and have affordable prices. Those factors speak for itself, because healthy nutrition and usefulness to your body will definitely take more time than fast food meals do. Maybe the combination of those factors should make the population think about the useful contribution that fast food meals bring. Currently many people started to stick to healthy lifestyle, and now it is time for the society to rethink their eating habits, to be engaged into physical activities and think about their future and the future of their children. Careful consideration of day regime and of nutrition information of the foods an individual is eating can lead to great results and can help to reduce obesity rates in the country. It is everyone’s choice, and living healthy life with the reduced level of fast food consumption can positively contribute to everyone’s living. The population in United States should be able to make a difference and move towards a healthier and fitter society!

Works Cited

"Causes and Consequences." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes/index.html>.
Currie, Janet, Stefano Della Vigna, Enrico Moretti, and Vikram Pathania. "THE EFFECT OF FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS ON OBESITY AND WEIGHT GAIN." NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH. 1 Feb. 2009. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.nber.org/papers/w14721.pdf>.
"Defining Overweight and Obesity." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html>.
HAN, EUNA, and LISA M. POWELL. "Fast Food Prices And Adult Body Weight Outcomes: Evidence Based On Longitudinal Quantile Regression Models." Contemporary Economic Policy 31.3 (2013): 528-536. Business Source Complete. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
"Obesity Causes." Harvard School of Public Health. Obesity Prevention Source, 20 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/>.
"Overweight and Obesity in the U.S." Food Research Action Center. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and-obesity/obesity-in-the-us/>.
Pearce, Jamie, and Karen Witten. "Residential Environment and Obesity - Estimating Causal Effects." Geographies of Obesity Environmental Understandings of the Obesity Epidemic. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010. 261-262. Print.
Schroer, William J. "Generations X,Y, Z and the Others." Social Marketing. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.socialmarketing.org/newsletter/features/generation3.htm>.
Stender, S., J. Dyerberg, and A. Astrup. "Fast Food: Unfriendly And Unhealthy." International Journal Of Obesity 31.6 (2007): 887-890. Academic Search Complete. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
"The Impact of Food Advertising on Childhood Obesity." American Psychological Association. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.aspx>.

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