December 12, 2012
Fast Food Essay
Obesity is becoming an increasingly large problem, most especially in the United States where, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults are obese. The large fast food industry of the America creates food that has contributed to this obesity problem, and many believe that the industry is the main cause of obesity and other major health problems. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer are some health complications that may be caused by consuming the unhealthy food at fast food establishments. But, with the rise of health concerns it comes into question; who is really responsible for causing these diseases? Are we the consumers responsible because we choose to eat the food, or is the fast food industry to blame? Though consumers do have their faults in this issue, fast food companies have most of the responsibility because they knowingly provide an unhealthy product to the public, target young children and poor communities, and strive to keep consumers ignorant of the food’s dangerous ingredients just to make a profit.
It seems to be common knowledge that fast food is not the healthiest food option, but what really makes the food unhealthy? Fast foods contain high amounts of fat, sodium, and cholesterol which lead to very high calorie intake. A McDonald’s Big Mac®, as listed on the McDonald’s website, contains 29 g of fat (including saturated and trans fats), 970 mg of sodium, and 95 mg of cholesterol. This adds up to 550 calories, with 260 of those calories from fat. The amount of sodium and fat in a single Big Mac® make up about 45% of one’s total recommended daily sodium and fat intake. This is an even bigger problem because of the supersized portions leading to even more consumption of fats. According to their nutrition information, Taco Bell’s XXL Steak Nachos contain 1200 calories with 550 calories from fat alone, which is the same amount of calories from a single Big Mac®. The high intake of calories and high concentrations of fat, sodium, and cholesterol from fast food are major contributors to obesity and the health problems associated with it.
Fast foods also contain dangerous, and even toxic chemicals used as cheap alternatives to healthier ingredients. These chemicals include, trans fat, sodium nitrite/nitrate, artificial colors and flavors, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and sodium benzoate. Each of the ingredients listed, with the exception of trans fat, are inorganic, man-made materials added to most fast foods. Trans fat is also known as unsaturated fat and is used to cheaply enhance flavor in almost all forms of fast food. In Cholesterol and Triglycerides, Michael T. McDermott, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health and Science Center, claims that consumption of trans fat increases one’s risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and lowering levels of “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (2). Sodium nitrite/nitrate is a preservative added to meat to increase shelf-life, prevent growth of mold and bacteria, give meat its red color, and add flavor. Sodium benzoate is a similar preservative added to many kinds of foods. These two ingredients are directly linked to causing brain damage, and ADHD in children. Large consumption of sodium nitrite/nitrate and sodium benzoate has been proven to alter DNA in humans, which causes cells to mutate, often leading to tumors or even cancer. These two sodium based preservatives have carcinogenic properties which makes them especially dangerous, as demonstrated in a study by Food and Chemical Toxicology (The Evaluation of the Genotoxicity Two Food Preservatives). Lastly, MSG is a common flavor enhancer added to most fast foods....