Relationship of Attitudes Toward Fast Food and Frequency of Fast-Food Intake in Adults

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Behavior and Psychology

nature publishing group

Relationship of Attitudes Toward Fast Food and Frequency of Fast-food Intake in Adults Jayna M. Dave1, Lawrence C. An1, Robert W. Jeffery2 and Jasjit S. Ahluwalia1 The purpose of the study was to examine the association between attitudes toward fast food and the frequency of fast-food intake in adults. This study is a cross-sectional evaluation of random digit-dial telephone surveys to identify patterns of eating away from home and attitudes toward it. Participants included 530 adults (94% white, 65% women, 70% married, 42% with college educated). Attitudes toward fast food was measured using an 11-item, 4-dimensional scale: perceived convenience of fast food (α = 0.56); fast food is fun and social (α = 0.55); fast food perceived as unhealthful (α = 0.45); and dislike toward cooking (α = 0.52). Frequency of fast-food intake was found to be significantly associated with age (odds ratios (OR) = 0.981, P = 0.001), gender (men > women), and marital status of the participants (single > married/partnered and divorced/separated/widowed). Additionally, frequency of fast-food intake was also found to be significantly associated with perceived convenience of fast food (OR = 1.162, P < 0.001) and dislike toward cooking (OR = 1.119, P < 0.001) but not with perceived unhealthfulness of fast food (OR = 0.692, P = 0.207). These findings suggest public education regarding the unhealthfulness of fast food may not influence fast-food consumption. Interventions targeting the issue of convenience and quick or efficient preparation of nutritious alternatives to fast food could be more promising. Obesity (2009) 17, 1164–1170. doi:10.1038/oby.2009.26


Eating away from home is becoming increasingly common and visits to fast-food restaurants are growing even more rapidly. In 1970, money spent on away-from-home foods represented 25% of total food spending (1); by 1995, it comprised 40% of total food spending and by 1999 it reached a record 47.5% of total food spending (2). It is projected that, by 2010, 53% of the food dollar will be spent on foods away from home (2,3). Fast food has been defined as food purchased in self-service or carry-out eating places without waiter service (4). Between 1977 and 1995, the percentage of meals and snacks eaten at fast-food restaurants increased 200% (ref. 5). Americans have unprecedented access to fast food. Fast food has become an increasingly important part of the American diet and the frequency of fast-food intake has dramatically increased since the early 1970s (ref. 6). Fast food pervades virtually in all segments of the society including local communities, public schools, and hospitals. These trends seem to be accompanied by massive advertising and marketing campaigns. A report by the National Restaurant Association indicates that 3 out of 10 consumers report that meals from restaurants including fast-food restaurants are essential to their “way of life” (3). Several studies have examined the association of the frequency of fast-food intake with BMI, energy intake, and diet 1

patterns (6–12). For example, Jeffery et al. reported a significant positive relationship between BMI and individuals who frequented fast-food restaurants once a week or more (11). In a subsequent study by Jeffery et al., a positively significant association was observed between fast-food intake and BMI only among women (10). Many aspects of fast food are of concern specifically as they are related to obesity and related problems. Specifically, fast food tends to be energy-dense, poor in micronutrients, low in fiber, high in glycemic load, and excessive in portion size, thus causing many to exceed daily energy requirements (7,13,14). The expert panel of the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research recommend minimal fast-food consumption because of the possible association between fast-food intake and weight gain (15)....
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