One of the questions of the survey was “I like the taste of fast food too much to give it up.” Results found that:
- 45 percent of Britons agreed
- 44 percent of Americans agreed
- 37 percent of Canadians agreed
In terms of losing weight, most people worldwide agree that cutting food intake is the best solution. Another 43 percent said they also do more exercise to lose weight.
However, while 57 percent of Americans, 56 percent of French and 54 percent of Britons choose to eat less to shed pounds, 14 percent of Malaysians use herbs and supplements to cut their weight. For many people convenience food, either in restaurants or ready-to-cook frozen meals picked up from the grocery store, has become a way of life. This is sad not only from a health perspective but also from a cultural one. Each country has its own recipe traditions, local foods and flavors that have been preserved for many generations, but which are quickly falling by the wayside as people choose McDonald’s and other fast foods over home-cooked meals.
The survey found that Britons topped the list of fast-food lovers (by a whole percentage point over the United States), and another recent study by the British Heart Foundation found that an astonishing 82 percent of 7- to 14-year-old kids do not consider potato chips a treat, but rather a staple food. And two-thirds of British children did not view fast food as a treat either.
Of course, fast food has become a worldwide epidemic. In the United States, 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food is for processed food, and fast food is available just about everywhere, including in hospitals and schools.
What is interesting is that most people know that fast food is not good for you, yet still choose to eat it. (If you want to know just how bad it actually is, watch Morgan Spurlock’s SuperSize Me.) Fast food:
- Increases your risk of obesity and diabetes
- Is loaded with dangerous additives like trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup and MSG
- Contains genetically modified ingredients
- Lacks the nutrients your body needs to thrive
What Makes Fast Food so Tempting?
Knowing the risks, why do so many people sit down to a fast-food meal once, twice, or numerous times in a week? There are a number of reasons but my best guess is that it would be related to taste, convenience and cost. Plus, the large amounts of sugar, salt and grease in fast food are clearly addictive.
In one study, rats fed a diet containing 25 percent sugar became anxious when the sugar was removed -- displaying symptoms similar to people going through drug withdrawals, such as chattering teeth and the shakes.
A link was found between opioids, or your brain’s 'pleasure chemicals,' and a craving for sweet, salty and fatty foods. It is thought that high-fat foods stimulate the opioids, as when researchers stimulated rats’ brains with a synthetic version of the natural opioid enkephalin, the rats ate up to six times their normal intake of fat.
Further, long-lasting changes in rats' brain chemistry, similar to those caused by morphine or heroin use, were also noted.
There is also the convenience factor. Fast food is, well, fast, and it takes very little effort to pull up to a drive through and get a meal for your family (albeit a disastrous one).
The good and the bad thing about most convenience foods is that they are cheap. A December 2007 study found that prices for healthy food jumped nearly 20 percent over a two-year period, compared to a modest 5 percent increase in the overall food price inflation. Prices of high-calorie foods, meanwhile, remained about the same, and in some cases even dropped.
Finding the time, and the financial resources, to make healthy meals for your family is challenging, but please don’t use these as excuses to exist on fast food.
It really is vital to see the long-term perspective here. You don’t want to exchange convenience and taste for a bed in the ICU or an early ticket out of this life.
Your health -- your energy levels, your appearance, your mood and so many other factors -- will improve when you eat the foods your body was designed for. Returning to locally grown, fresh foods is really the only way to reach optimal health.
If price is a factor in your food choices, please do read my 14 tips to eat healthy on a tight budget, and for those who are time-challenged, you can find quick, home-cooking tips in How to Cook Whole Food From Scratch--and Keep Your Day Job!