Frequent fast food meals increase weight, diabetes risk


    Public release date: 30-Dec-2004
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    Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
    NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

    Frequent fast food meals increase weight, diabetes risk, NHLBI study says

    Eating at fast-food restaurants more than twice per week is associated with more weight gain and insulin resistance in otherwise healthy young adults
    Young adults who eat frequently at fast-food restaurants gain more weight and have a greater increase in insulin resistance in early middle age, according to a large multi-center study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and published in the January 1 issue of The Lancet *.

    After 15 years, those who ate at fast-food restaurants at least twice each week compared to less than once a week had gained an extra ten pounds and had a two-fold greater increase in insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease.

    "Obesity and diabetes are on the rise in this country and this important study highlights the value of healthy eating habits," said NHLBI Acting Director Barbara Alving, M.D.

    Fast-food consumption has increased in the United States over the past three decades. "It's extremely difficult to eat in a healthy way at a fast-food restaurant. Despite some of their recent healthful offerings, the menus still tend to include foods high in fat, sugar and calories and low in fiber and nutrients," said lead author Mark Pereira, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. People need to evaluate how often they eat meals at fast-food restaurants and think about cutting back, according to Pereira.

    One reason for the weight gain may be that a single meal from one of these restaurants often contains enough calories to satisfy a person's caloric requirement for an entire day.

    Participants were asked during the physical examinations given as part of the study how often they ate breakfast, lunch or dinner at fast-food restaurants. Researchers found that the adverse impact on participants' weight and insulin resistance was seen in both blacks and whites who ate frequently at fast-food restaurants, even after adjustment for other lifestyle habits.

    Study participants included 3,031 young black and white adults who were between the ages of 18 and 30 in 1985-1986. The participants, who were part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, received dietary assessments over a 15-year period. CARDIA centers are located in Birmingham, AL, Chicago, IL, Minneapolis, MN, and Oakland, CA.

    According to the study, men visited fast-food restaurants more frequently than women and blacks more frequently than whites. Black men reported an average frequency of 2.3 visits per week in 2000-01. White women had the lowest frequency, at an average of 1.3 visits per week in 2000-01.

    "It is important to watch carefully what you eat, especially at a fast-food restaurant. Knowing the nutritional content is important. Consumers may want to ask for this information," said NHLBI's Gina Wei, M.D., project officer for CARDIA. Salads and grilled foods tend to be lower in fat than fried foods, she said.

    Keep portion sizes small, and ask that high-fat sauces and condiments, such as salad dressing and mayonnaise, be "on the side" and use them sparingly to reduce calories, Wei said.

    For more information and tips on maintaining weight visit the following Web pages: - Aim for a Healthy Weight: .

    - Portion Distortion:

    NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal Government's primary agency for biomedical and behavioral research. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NHLBI press release and other materials including information about heart disease, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol are available online at

    *"Fast-food Habits, Weight Gain, and Insulin Resistance (The CARDIA Study): 15-Year Prospective Analysis". Mark Pereira, Alex I. Kartashov, Cara B. Ebbeling, Linda Van Horn, Martha L. Slattery, David R. Jacobs, Jr., David S. Ludwig. The Lancet, January 1, 2005.
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  3. by   unknown99
    They are just now figuring out what we already knew???
  4. by   oramar
    Did any one see the documentary/docudrama called Supersize Me? I have not buy I heard it ran along these lines. I must say that most fast food resturants now have healthy lines but you have to CHOOSE the healthy food.
  5. by   Brigid
    Our family stayed in California during the summer. We were amazed to see the numbers of overweight kids who were eating pancakes drenched in syrup every breakfast!!!!!
  6. by   Tweety
    Quote from sagarcia210
    They are just now figuring out what we already knew???

    I was thinking the same thing. food makes people gain weight. Being overweight is connected to diabeties.........duh. :hatparty:
  7. by   chris_at_lucas_RN
    Not to mention the MSG that everything fast is loaded with.

    And it's not just fast food! One cannot find packaged meat here that hasn't been soaked and loaded in "up to 30%" of some seasoning fluid, principly water and MSG, I'm sure. They don't tell you what it is. But the meat winds up tasting salty, slightly sweet and a lot like lunch meat. I have been avoiding bologna and the rest of that stuff for years, and now I am confronted with it in my chicken tenders and pork and beef.


    And while I'm on this bandwagon, have you read a vegetable can label lately and compared it to the contents? Apparently, for example, the water in a can of green beans is considered part of the "net weight."

    We have a postal scale, which I know is accurate because I weigh my packages here and then compare and the PO. Always exactly the same.

    And the size of the portions--maybe it will say 3.5 portions in a can, but you get a scant 1 cup of actual vegetable. A quarter cup of vegetable is a serving? Please!

    I'd love to see some serious activism for truth in nutrition in the US. We did it when beef and lettuce were issues in the 70's. How about now when our fat little children (and their chunky parents--more than half of us are obese and a good many of us read--and believe--food labels) are the issue?

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