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Fast foods and their impact on health

Authors:
  • ESI-MC&PGIMSR, Rajajinagar, Bangalore, India.

Abstract

'Eat healthy and live healthy' is one of the essential requirements for long life. Unfortunately, today's world has been adapted to a system of consumption of foods which has several adverse effects on health. Lifestyle changes has compelled us so much that one has so little time to really think what we are eating is right! Globalisation and urbanisation have greatly affected one's eating habits and forced many people to consume fancy and high calorie fast foods, popularly known as 'Junk foods'. Research into the possible health hazards on consumption of such high calorie foods has given an insight to avoid them, but unfortunately measures taken are not as effective as they need to be. Diseases like coronary artery disease and diabetes mellitus have seen a profound rise in developing countries and such unhealthy junk food consumption is one of the notable factors to its contribution. This global problem of consuming junk food on a large scale and its impact on health needs emphasis and health education which can greatly contribute to its limited consumption and switching over to healthy eating habits for the better living. knowledge highlighting about the eating habits, nutritional aspects, quality of unhealthy foods, their health impact and preventive measures should be given to create awareness and render health education for a change towards good eating practices. Junk food and its impact on health have been reviewed from various resources and have been systematically presented, so as to emphasize its ill effects and measures to be adapted towards healthy living.
Ó Journal of Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences University
JKIMSU, Vol. 1, No. 2, July-Dec. 2012
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REVIEW ARTICLE
Fast Foods and their Impact on Health
Ashakiran1* & Deepthi R2
1Department of Biochemistry, 2Department of Community Medicine, Sri Devaraj Urs Medical College,
Kolar-563101 (Karnataka), India
Abstract:
Eat healthy and live healthy is one of the
essential requirements for long life.
Unfortunately, todays world has been adapted
to a system of consumption of foods which has
several adverse effects on health. Lifestyle
changes has compelled us so much that one has
so little time to really think what we are eating
is right! Globalisation and urbanisation have
greatly affected ones eating habits and forced
many people to consume fancy and high
calorie fast foods, popularly known as Junk
foods. Research into the possible health
hazards on consumption of such high calorie
foods has given an insight to avoid them, but
unfortunately measures taken are not as
effective as they need to be. Diseases like
coronary artery disease and diabetes mellitus
have seen a profound rise in developing
countries and such unhealthy junk food
consumption is one of the notable factors to
its contribution. This global problem of
consuming junk food on a large scale and its
impact on health needs emphasis and health
education which can greatly contribute to its
limited consumption and switching over to
healthy eating habits for the better living.
knowledge highlighting about the eating habits,
nutritional aspects, quality of unhealthy foods,
their health impact and preventive measures
should be given to create awareness and render
health education for a change towards good
eating practices. Junk food and its impact on
health have been reviewed from various
resources and have been systematically
presented, so as to emphasize its ill effects and
measures to be adapted towards healthy living.
Key Words:
Diseases, Health, Junk food, Lifestyle
Introduction:
Concepts, relationships, lifestyles are
metamorphosed to accommodate the new
jet age and eating habits too is no
exception [1]. Healthy nutritious foods have
been replaced by the new food mantra - JUNK
FOOD! In the context of world economy, junk
food is a global phenomenon [2]. The
availability of junk food and snacks at low prices
and marketing strategies adapted by
manufacturers of such foods has triggered an
evolution wherein, consumption of foods that
require neither the structure nor the
preparation of a formal meal. It seems to have
engulfed every age; every race and the newest
entrants on stage are children, school going in
particular. Hence, a systematic presentation has
been made in this review from the articles from
various sources highlighting eating habits,
nutritional aspects and quality of unhealthy
food, their health impact on consumption and
preventive measures to be undertaken. Through
health education, a change towards good eating
practices and adaption of healthy living is
ISSN 2231-4261
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JKIMSU, Vol. 1, No. 2, July-Dec. 2012
possible.
Obesity accounts for 300,000 deaths in the U.S.
alone. Research into junk food and fast food
restaurants have found that there is a direct
relationship between the number of fast food
restaurants located within the local area and
obesity rates [3]. According to a survey by the
Institute of Food Technologists, 75% of
Americans are eating their dinners at home,
nearly half those meals are fast foods, deliv-
ered, or taken out from restaurants or grocery
delis. The way in which we eat, and what we eat,
is of vital importance to our state of health.
With the global spread of food uniformity, its
rapid growth is occurring in the developing
world. It has radically changed the way people
eat all over the world.
India is no exception to this changing fast-food
trend. Indias fast-food industry is growing by
40 percent a year. Statistics place India in 10th
place in fast food per capita spending figures
with 2.1% of expenditure of annual total
spending. According to the National Sample
Survey Organization (NSSO) survey in the year
2005 released by the Delhi government, people
living in Delhi spend Rs. 371, on an average,
on processed food and beverages per month.
They spend Rs. 290 on vegetables and around
one-third of it on fruits. The total value of junk
food consumed in India in 2003 was about Rs.
41,000 crore; of which, rural areas accounted
for a little over Rs. 22,000 crore, as published
in an article in news paper by Sudhanshu Ranade
in Business Line on July 13th 2005. Nature
in 2007 states that preventable diseases caused
mainly due to smoking, poor diet as junk food
consumption and lack of exercise could kill
millions in developing world in the next 10
years.
What is a Junk Food?
Junk food simply means an empty calorie food.
An empty calorie food is a high calorie or
calorie rich food which lacks in micro-
nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, or amino
acids, and fiber but has high energy (calories).
These foods dont contain the nutrients that
your body needs to stay healthy. Hence, these
foods that has poor nutritional value is
considered unhealthy and may be called as junk
food. Junk food is an informal term applied
to some foods which are perceived to have little
or no nutritional value, but which also have
ingredients considered unhealthy when eaten
regularly, or to those considered unhealthy to
consume at all. The term junk food was coined
as a slang in the public interest in 1972 by
Michael Jacobson, Director of the Center for
Science, Washington D.C [4].
What makes these foods to be called as Junk
is that it contains high levels of refined
sugar, white flour, trans fat and polyunsaturated
fat, salt, and numerous food additives such as
monosodium glutamate and tartrazine; at
the same time, it is lacking in proteins,
vitamins, essential minerals, fiber, among other
healthy attributes. These foods have little
enzyme producing vitamins and minerals and
but contain high level of calories in their place.
A food that is high in fat, sodium, and/or
sugar and provides high calories yet
useless in value is generally known as a junk
food. On the contrary, junk food is easy to carry,
purchase and consume. Generally, a junk
food is given a very attractive appearance
by adding food additives and colours to
enhance flavour, texture and for increasing long
Ashakiran & Deepthi R.
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shelf life.
Appealing nature of junk food
Junk food comprises of anything that is quick,
tasty, convenient and fashionable. Clever junk
food advertising and the lure of convenience in
addition to taste drag people to junk food
addiction. Following factors generally makes
it appealing:
1. Time factor: Junk food addiction is so
high because of its simplicity. They are
easy to prepare and ready to consume
within no time.
2. Taste factor: Great taste also, is another
important reason to an extent that
influences to opt for junk food. This
taste is achieved owing to lavish usage
of oils, salts and/or sugar.
3. Attractiveness: Packing of such foods
has very attractive appearance by
adding food additives and colours in
addition to enhancement in flavour.
4. Ad factor: Advertising [5] has a major
role in attracting the public, particularly
children and adolescents [6] to the junk
food selling joints.
Recognising junk food
Junk food, like many other things, can often be
known only when you see it. One can spot what
might be junk food by looking at a food label
[7], including that it has little nutritional value
and has:
 > 35% of calories from fat (except for
low-fat milk)
 > 10% of calories from saturated fats
 Any trans fat
 > 35% of calories from sugar, unless it is made
with 100% fruit and no added sugar
 > 200 calories per servings for snacks
 > 200 mg per serving for sodium (salt) for
snacks
 > 480 mg per serving for sodium (salt) for
initial meal
Also the ingredients list of the food can be
checked to spot many forms of junk food. In
general, if one of the first two ingredients is
either oil or a form of sugar, then it is likely a
junk food. The presence of high fructose corn
syrup in the ingredients is also often a tip-off
to a food being a junk food.
Health impact of junk foods
Junk food allows people to eat without
planning  eat not only when it is pre-set meal
time, but also when they have spare time.
Ingredients of junk foods give great taste and
make them addictive [8]. Fat and sugar in
combination are capable of producing a
dopamine-driven surge of intense pleasure in
people with a propensity for addictive
behaviour. On the other side, it must be noted
that they are hazardous to health too. High fat
content, particularly cholesterol, sugar and
salts have their adverse effects on health.
Soaring calorie content with sugar can lead to
obesity [9].
Dense sugar content can cause dental cavities
and type 2 diabetes mellitus [10]. A short-term
adverse effect as a result of eating junk foods
lack of energy which occurs because junk
foods dont provide essential nutrients, even
though they can be very much sufficing, due to
which one feels weakened. Unfortunately,
meals consisting of junk food dont fill up for
long. Because they are lacking in fibre, and are
made of processed foods, they are rated high
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on the glycaemic index, which means they
provide a quick rise in blood sugar, but this also
falls quickly, and giving rise to hunger.
Cholesterol and salt are known to setoff blood
pressure, stroke and heart diseases in a chain.
Excessive salts can affect functioning of
kidneys too. Excess fats and oils along with
spices added in these foods act as an irritant to
gastric mucosa leading to excess secretion of
hydrochloric acid, landing in gastritis. Poor
concentration is another result of junk food
habit known to affect in immediate and medium
term periods. When a sumptuous junk meal rich
in oil is taken, there is a feeling of drowsiness
and failure to concentrate. The junk food
eating over a substainal period of time can drop
blood circulation due to fat accumulation. Lack
of vital oxygen, nutrients and proteins particu-
larly can stale the grey (brain) cells temporarily.
Most of the times these junk foods contain
colours, which are often inedible, carcinogenic
and harmful to the body. Flavourings and
colourings can be allergic causing asthma,
rashes and hyperactivity. Animal studies on rats
have demonstrated the ill effects of consum-
ing junk foods during pregnancy which affects
the health of foetus [11].
Metabolic consequences of junk food
Food dense in calories, when oxidised in the
body causes enormous formation of Acetyl
CoA. Acetyl CoA in excess is channelized out
of mitochondria for its participation in other
metabolic pathways and for its effective
utilisation. These pathways include denovo
fatty acid synthesis and biosynthesis of
cholesterol, which causes excess fatty acid and
cholesterol formation.
The high levels of sugar in junk food which puts
metabolism under stress; when refined sugar
is taken, the pancreas secretes high amounts of
insulin to prevent a dangerous spike in blood
sugar levels. Because fast food and junk food
dont contain adequate amounts of protein and
good carbohydrates, the blood sugar levels
suddenly drops after eating, resulting with
grumpy, fatigued feeling and a craving for sugar
[12]. Another pathway which acetyl CoA is
involved is in formation of ketone bodies,
which is inactive when energy levels are high,
but is active in case when impaired glucose
tolerance sets in. Carbonated soft drinks, in
addition to towering amount of sugar
reportedly contain methylglyoxal (MG), which
is strongly associated with human carbonyl
stress [13].
Fried and processed food, contains high
amounts of trans fats, saturated fats in addition
to oxycholesterol. Oxycholesterol is a
little-known type of cholesterol which may
prove to be a lethal compound to heart health
as reported by Scientists from China in the
National Meeting of the American Chemical
Society in August 2009 [14].
A high sodium level has been clearly implicated
as the causative factor for high blood pressure.
Sodium is known to affect renin-angiotensin
system in kidneys, which produces
vasoconstrictive effects on arterioles, leading
to development of high blood pressure. Also
the salts used for the preparation has an impact
of their excretion through kidneys, thus having
an effect on renal system [15]. High
cholesterol from junk food also affects liver
on the long run where it is metabolized as it
strains liver, damaging it eventually.
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Junk foods  Effects on childrens health
Children find themselves amidst a complex
society that is undergoing breaths taking
changes [16]. Wafers, chips, colas, pizzas and
burgers are suddenly the most attractive food
items among children. Children rapidly seem
to have stepped into a world of fast foods and
vending machines, totally unaware of the havoc
they are creating for themselves and their
impact on their health.
Good nutrition is of utmost priority in children
at the time of steady growth between the ages
of 6  12 years. In a study done in Beijing,
China and published in the year 2008 revealed
eating junk food is a popular event among
children and adolescents between the age of 8
and 16 [17]. Eating habits in such age group not
only has an impact on their growth but also on
their concentration, feeling and behaviour. With
vast majority of women with school children
are working class which has led to leaving
behind the traditional foods at home and
offering of fast foods by parents to their
children. The commonest scenario noticed in
most homes is a child who returns from school
hangs himself in front of the television,
faithfully accompanied by a bowl of wafers, a
packet of chips and a can of cola [18, 19]. Such
nutritionally weak foods become quickly
addictive and can sow the seeds of infirmity and
debilitating disease, which ultimately leads to
many an incurable disease. Studies reveal:
- Beginning of clogging of arteries as
early as at the age of 30
- Risks of prostate and breast cancer
linked to their eating habits at
puberty
- Setting of hypertension and
osteoporosis at an early age
- Vulnerability to slow growth, tooth
decay and obesity [20, 21]
School nutrition survey in Ireland has revealed
that 48.6% of lunch taken by children has been
categorized as junk [22]. School days are full
of educational challenges that require long
attention spans and stamina. Poor nutritional
habits can undermine these pre-requisites of
learning, as well as deplete the strength that
children need for making friends, interacting
with family, participating in sports and games
or simply feeling good about
them.Nutritionists agree that the reason for
kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder is largely the kind of food children
eat [23]. Experts warn that eating too much junk
food is one of the factors that have
contributed to the current childhood obesity
epidemic.
Awareness on junk food facts is lacking
dramatically in every corner of the society.
90% of parents agree that junk food
advertisements were making it difficult for
them to promote healthy eating at home.
Messages for healthy eating are getting
undermined at every turn by the relentless
number of junk food advertisements [24].
Hence every individual parent in the society
need to be educated about such foods and their
impact on their childrens health, who can take
care to avoid them intelligently and keeping
them out of the reach of their children [25].
Avoiding Junk Food
Awareness on junk food facts is lacking
amongst every individual in the community.
Eating a healthy diet is a hard work. The only
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way to avoid junk food is to encourage eating
healthy snacks and more of the following foods,
which are usually considered to be a part of a
healthy diet:
 foods that are low in fat, saturated fat, and
cholesterol
 high-fiber foods, including whole-grain foods,
vegetables and fruits
 foods that have only a moderate amount of
sugar and salt
 calcium-rich foods, to meet daily calcium
requirements
 iron-rich foods, to meet daily requirements
for iron
Measures to be taken, especially for
children:
 Since junk food and children have a strange
affinity to each other, try and avoid children to
get habituated to such foods.
 Controlling children from eating junk foods
in schools is another step that helps in a long
term. School administration along with
parents has a combined responsibility to
educate children about avoiding junk foods in
school premises.
 Junk food - the name itself is tempting
enough. Eliminating the temptation is one way
to avoid it. Keeping good food nearby and
having meals right on time certainly helps in
this direction.
 Developing awareness for fitness will
certainly separate junk food and good diet. As
quoted in an article Wanted child lock for
junk food in The Telegraph published on 16th
February 2009, Calcutta Edition by Varuna
Verma But educating parents about the
harmful effects of junk food could also help
children to kick the habit.
The World Consumer Rights Day on March 15
will begin a campaign against the marketing of
unhealthy foods to children. Amongst school
children, many strategic ideas can be
incorporated in schools such as Bring fruit at
school [26], which aims to cut down at junk
food consumption and its addiction promoting
healthy food habits among them. Some of the
school-based research and initiatives can open
doors for identifying promising strategies to
develop fruit and vegetable environment
amongst students in school settings [27, 28].
Finally, not all foods are junk; moreover, our
body has enough stamina to take care off
occasional junk food eating. One need not have
to avoid all junk food all the time, if you dont
want to do so. The food pyramid even allows
for some discretionary calories that we can all
use to eat some luxury foods, including those
with fat or added sugar. The fact that needs to
be kept in mind is that most peoples
allowance of discretionary calories [29] is very
small, which ranges from 130 to 290 calories.
Often, people overdo it, adding too many
calories each day [30].
Conclusion:
Junk foods have certainly carved up the Third
World due to globalisation [31]. It is an
integral part of life in the developed and also
the developing world, and coming with it is a
massive increase in obesity and associated
problems. The key to eating these junk foods
is moderation, occasional consumption and
preferably in small portions. It is not
impossible to win war with junk foods against
healthy foods [32]. However, one must beware;
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entice is so strong that you will be addicted.
It must be remembered that the addiction to
junk is great for business. It is all in our hands
to choose junk food or health.
Avoid Junk, Accept Health!
No Junk, Know Health!
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15
... India's fast-food industry is expanding at the rate of 40% every year. India ranks 10 th in the fast food per capita spending, and it is 2.1% of expenditure in annual total spending (Ashakiran et al., 2012) [1] . In recent times, the fast food industry is adapted to Indian food requirement and is growing very fast. ...
... India's fast-food industry is expanding at the rate of 40% every year. India ranks 10 th in the fast food per capita spending, and it is 2.1% of expenditure in annual total spending (Ashakiran et al., 2012) [1] . In recent times, the fast food industry is adapted to Indian food requirement and is growing very fast. ...
... Low levels of calcium and magnesium is also found in the fast foods. Therefore experts attributed the current childhood obesity epidemic to fast foods (Ashakiran and Deepthi, 2012) [1] . The association between body weight and health has received considerable attention and has major potential public health implications. ...
... The energy density of fast foods had been found to be more than twice the recommended daily allowance for children (Printice and Jebb, 2003). The increased childhood obesity has led to increase in life-threatening conditions particularly non communicable diseases in developing countries (Ashakiran andDeepthi, 2012, Jaisheeba et al., 2012). Dental cavities another common ailment in school children can result due to dense sugar content in fast foods (Nisar et al., 2009). ...
... Low levels of calcium and magnesium is also found in the fast foods. Therefore experts attributed the current childhood obesity epidemic to fast foods (Ashakiran and Deepthi, 2012). ...
... Many developing countries with a tendency towards Western dietary culture go away from traditional and local diets [6]. Healthy foods with nutrients have been replaced by new foods called fast foods [9]. Fast food is the food prepared and consumed outside and often in fast food restaurants [10]. ...
... Fast food is often highly processed and prepared in an industrial fashion, i.e., with standard ingredients and methodical and standardized cooking and production methods [10]. In fast food, vitamins, minerals, fiber and amino acids are low or absent but energy is high [9]. Fast food consumption has increased dramatically in the last 30 years in European and American countries [11]. ...
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Background Today, with the advancement of science, technology and industry, people’s lifestyles such as the pattern of people’s food, have changed from traditional foods to fast foods. The aim of this survey was to examine and identify factors influencing intent to use fast foods and behavior of fast food intake among students based on the theory of planned behavior (TPB). Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted among 229 university students. The study sample was selected and entered to the study using stratified random sampling method. Data were collected using a four-part questionnaire including Participants’ characteristics, knowledge, the TPB variables, and fast food consumption behavior. The study data were analyzed in SPSS software (version 16.0) using descriptive statistics (frequencies, Means, and Standard Deviation) and inferential statistics (t-test, Chi-square, correlation coefficient and multiple regressions). Results The monthly frequency of fast food consumption among students was reported 2.7 times. The TPB explained 35, 23% variance of intent to use fast food and behavior of fast food intake, respectively. Among the TPB variables, knowledge ( r = .340, p < 0.001) and subjective norm ( r = .318, p < 0.001) were known as important predictors of intention to consume fast foods - In addition, based on regression analyses, intention ( r = .215, p < 0.05), perceived behavioral control ( r = .205, p < 0.05), and knowledge ( r = .127, p < 0.05) were related to fast food consumption, and these relationships were statistically significant. Conclusions The current study showed that the TPB is a good theory in predicting intent to use fast food and the actual behavior. It is supposed that health educators use from the present study results in designing appropriate interventions to improve nutritional status of students.
... The global picture of lifestyle-related diseases indicates a continuous surge in obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiac issues (World Health Organization, 2020). These can be traced to lack of physical activity, ever-increasing fast foods eatery chains, and the complex nature of work-life balance brought by the demands of today's corporate operational architecture (Ashakiran & Deepthi, 2012). The World Health Organization (WHO), for example, estimates that in the next ten decades, there will be a 40% surge in the already existing 1.6 billion overweight adults across the world (World Health Organization, 2020). ...
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... The global picture of lifestyle-related diseases indicates a continuous surge in obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiac issues (World Health Organization, 2020). These can be traced to lack of physical activity, ever-increasing fast foods eatery chains, and the complex nature of work-life balance brought by the demands of today's corporate operational architecture (Ashakiran & Deepthi, 2012). The World Health Organization (WHO), for example, estimates that in the next ten decades, there will be a 40% surge in the already existing 1.6 billion overweight adults across the world (World Health Organization, 2020). ...
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