May
01
2005

Burgers, Fries and High Healthcare Costs

“Everything in moderation” and “A little bit cannot harm” are the deceptively soothing terms that can lull consumers into the belief, that fast foods cannot be so bad after all. A study, called the” Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults” however gives us the facts, that paint a more realistic picture: the “little bit” actually has fairly serious consequences!
In this U.S. study a wide cross section of young adults were followed in four U.S centers: Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland Calif. 3031 people in the age of 18 to 30 years were recruited in 1985 and followed until 2001.

Lifestyle habits, such as smoking, watching TV and intake of other foods were recorded, and insulin resistance was measured. In addition there were detailed studies of weight, height, waist size and other body measurements. Some interesting facts emerged: women ate fast foods less frequently than men. Fast food intake was associated with lower education, more TV watching, lower physical activity, high intake of trans fats and alcohol intake. In short: fast foods and other unhealthy lifestyle choices were correlated.

Dr. Mark Pereira, PhD of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, who is one of the authors of the study, points out that it is extremely difficult to eat in a healthy way in a fast foods restaurant. The menus still include foods high in fat, sugar and calories and low in fiber and nutrients. Dr. Arne Astrup from the RVA University in Copenhagen found the same issues: besides the fact that serving sizes have increased two to five fold over the past fifty years, the energy density is twice as high in fast foods as compared to food in healthy diets. Dr. Astrup also points out in his publication, that humans have only a weak innate ability to recognize foods with high energy density and then down-regulate the amount eaten to meet and not exceed energy requirements.

Burgers, Fries and High Healthcare Costs

Burgers, Fries and High Healthcare Costs

If a person ate more than 2 fast food meals per week, which would be a modest increase of the control group that ate less than 1 fast food meal per week, the 2 meals per week group was about 5 kg heavier after 15 years, as opposed to 11 kg in the control group. The insulin resistance increased by an alarming 230 %. This finding is of significance, as insulin resistance (=metabolic syndrome) promotes the occurrence of cardiovascular disease and cancer, especially breast and colorectal cancers. The data are showing that even a modest increase has a unique effect in increasing the risks for these disease patterns, and the message is, that health care costs will only come down, if the root cause of disease is attacked at the societal and lifestyle level.

More information about the metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance): http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/metabolic-syndrome/

Reference: The Medical Post, March 8, 2005, page 20

Last edited October 28, 2014

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