Though it may seem obvious, a 15-year study has officially confirmed that eating lots of fast food can make you fat and increase your chances of developing diabetes.
Those who ate fast food twice a week or more gained 10 pounds more and were twice as likely to develop insulin resistance, which is linked to diabetes, than those who ate it less than once a week, even after other lifestyle factors were accounted for.
Yet even though fast food is known to be of poor nutritional quality, the fast-food industry claims it can be part of a healthful diet, researchers said. This is what prompted them to set the record straight once and for all.
In the study, which was the first long-term effort to study the relationship between eating fast food and diabetes, researchers followed 3,000 young people for 15 years, monitoring medical checkups and asking questions about diet, physical activity and other lifestyle factors.
Researchers said the findings suggest that fast food, as it is presently consumed, cannot be considered part of a healthy lifestyle. The huge portion sizes and high-caloric density of most fast foods were likely the primary cause of the obesity link, they said.
Some fast-food chains have begun offering healthier food choices, such as fruit, salads and bottled water instead of soda, but researchers say these trends, though moving in the right direction, are "weak."
One obesity expert commented that, although the study's conclusions are likely true, fast food restaurants are simply responding to society's desire for quick, inexpensive food. He said informing consumers on food quality and the health effects of fast food is one of the key improvements that needs to be made.
Lancet January 1, 2005;365(9453):36-42
USA Today December 31, 2004