Fast Food and Obesity
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once wrote, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” (“You are what you eat”). More than one-third of American adults and approximately 17 % of children aged between 2 and 19 years old are obese (“U.S. Obesity Trends”). Obesity is defined as a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated, leading to an increase in health problems, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and liver damage (“Obesity”). There are many causes of obesity, the most important being lack of exercise and poor eating habits that can result in too much saturated fat in people’s diet. These saturated fats are commonly found in fast food meals. There has been a great deal of debate and publicity surrounding the impact of “fast food” on people’s diet and the adverse effects it may have. The term “fast food” refers typically to low nutritional value and low quality food served in chain restaurants. But to what extent should fast food be blamed for being the cause of obesity in America? The subject needs to be examined from two perspectives: should fast food be blamed as the sole cause of obesity or should it be merely seen as a contributing factor and not the root cause?
Fast food should be blamed for being the cause of obesity for a number of reasons. Firstly, the ingredients in fast food are extremely fattening and cause health problems. These fast food meals are mainly composed of sugar, fats and processed foods. A key ingredient that could be a severe problem to our health is monosodium glutamate, (MSG). MSG can chemically alter the body’s metabolism in a way that can lead to food addiction and intense hunger, which can result in binge eating. Fast food meals also contain artificial sweeteners, which people consume, believing that they contain no calories but perhaps unaware that the body metabolizes them as sugar. All the meat found in these meals is processed, containing MSG, sugar, hormones, artificial flavours and a host of other chemical additives (“Addictive Ingredients in Fast Food”). The reason that some of the ingredients should lead to fast food being blamed for being the cause of obesity is that some of the ingredients have a direct link to obesity. For example, a high level of carbohydrates raises the sugar level in the blood, which causes the liver to produce more insulin, which increases amount of fat deposits in the body ("Fast Food Statistics."). A high amount of calories in fast food meals is also a possible cause of obesity. A child who eats a double cheeseburger, a large order of fries, a large coke and a small vanilla shake in McDonald’s, will have eaten 1760 calories and 63 grams of fat. ("Fast Food Effects on Childhood Obesity by Terry Schierer.”). The recommended daily intake for a grown adult is 2000 calories a day; therefore in one meal the child has had almost the entire adult daily intake of calories ("Fast Food Effects on Childhood Obesity by Terry Schierer.”). Another way to show that the ingredients in fast food have a direct link to obesity is through statistics. If a child eats fast food meals 2 to 3 times each week, they are likely to put on an extra six pounds (3 kilos) every year ("Fast Food Effects on Childhood Obesity by Terry Schierer.”). In summary, the ingredients in fast food meals are shown to be a significant cause of obesity.
Obesity in the US can also be directly attributed to the consumption of fast food through the advertising and marketing used to promote these products. In 2001 alone, the U.S. companies spent $3.5 billion on fast food advertising – roughly a third of the entire budget spent on promotion in the food industry. Nearly $1 billion was spent in advertising the top five soda brands ("Food Advertising Leads to Obesity."). The U.S. industries have invested a great deal in the advertisement of these foods and most of this marketing is aimed at children, as Gary Ruskin states in...
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