Western style fast food consists of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, French fries, hotdogs, and deep fried chicken. These foods are designed to be very tasty to the point of being irresistible. Americans are enthralled with this type of food, and larger portions are even better. Over the last few years, super-sized portions have become more prevalent. Consuming the largest number of these fast food items has even become a national holiday tradition. In today’s 4th of July Independence Day festivities at Coney Island’s famous Nathan’s hotdog eating contest, Joey Chestnut will attempt to break his personal record and win the Mustard Belt. The American fast food industry has become a multi-billion dollar business endeavor and has spread outside the United States to developing and newly developed countries. The booming fast food industry has undoubtedly contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Along with the obesity epidemic, it has also contributed to the growing prevalence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Researchers, lead by Dr. Andrew Odegaard, from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis have found that eating Western-style fast food on a regular basis can contribute to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease in a Chinese Singaporean population. The results of their study were published in the journal Circulation. The investigators studied the association of Western-style fast food consumption with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease by using data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study. The study participants were men and women aged 45 to 74 and were followed from 1993 to 1998. The study participants were questioned about the frequency, type, and portion size of their Western style fast food intake. In those study participants who consumed Western style fast food at least twice a week, the odds of developing type 2 diabetes increased by 27% and the odds of developing coronary artery disease increased by 56% compared to individuals who did not consume any Western style fast food. In study participants that consumed Western style fast food greater than 4 times per week, the chance of dying from coronary artery disease was nearly 80% greater than those individuals who did not consume any Western style fast food.
The authors wrote, “Chinese Singaporeans with relatively frequent intake of western-style fast food items have a modest increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and a strong and graded risk of dying from [coronary artery disease]. These findings suggest the need for further attention to global dietary acculturation in the context of the epidemiologic and nutrition transitions. The ubiquity of western-style fast food intake, and the emerging evidence that it contributes to the global type 2 diabetes and [coronary artery disease] epidemic, merits closer attention to, and further research on the topic”.
During today’s 4th of July Independence Day holiday, families and friends throughout the United States will meet to barbeque and consume large amounts of these types of foods. We should start to think twice about the health implications of our dietary habits, especially on a day such as today. In addition, the spread of Western style fast food to other parts of the world will contribute to the spread of our obesity epidemic to those countries that adopt it. Along with the obesity epidemic, we will witness the worldwide rise of the incidence of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease.
After all, the old adage still stands true: You are what you eat! Cheeseburger anyone?
Andrew O. Odegaard, et al. “Western-Style Fast Food Intake and Cardio-Metabolic Risk in an Eastern Country” Circulation Published online before print July 2, 2012, doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.084004