Fast Food Fat

Fast Food Fat

Although there are many unhealthy fast foods, this article will focus on some of the problems with fats. Many who have given in to the practice of eating fast foods on a regular basis and become overweight console themselves that it is a temporary situation. In Kelly Brownell’s “In Your Face How the Food Industry Drives us to Eat” (Nutrition Action Healthletter, May, 2010), it is noted that obesity is very hard to correct. After a weight loss, the body requires fewer calories and that efficiency may continue after the weight loss. Hormonal changes after dieting can contribute to more frequent hunger that further sabotages maintenance at a particular weight.

In “Nutritional challenges and health implications of takeaway and fast food” by A. Jaworowska, T. Blackham I. Davies, and L. Stevenson (Nutrition Reviews, Vol 71 (5):  310-318), the correlation between fast food consumption and a higher intake of calories, trans and saturated fats, sugar and salt is noted. Likewise, regular fast food intake is associated with a decreased fiber, macronutrient and vitamin consumption than those that don’t eat fast food.

Research has uncovered the tendency of humans to eat a fairly set weight of food each day. If food is calorically dense it becomes easy to eat too much. Fats in particular are quite a concentrated energy source. Many fast foods are high in fat and that by itself is associated with weight gain. One study discussed in the above article noted that between 1997 and 2010 the average calories across all fast food items didn’t change very much. Other research found that eating fast food more than once a week increases the probability of becoming obese by 129%! Because fat improves the taste and texture of many foods, that factor also can increase intake. Unfortunately, the belief that fat provides a prolonged sense of fullness has been disproved by scientists.

Saturated fats increase the total cholesterol level as well as HDL cholesterol level, but the degree of increase varies with the type of fat. Perhaps more concerning is the association between a diet high in saturated fat and impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. The increase in weight from a high fat diet is one possible reason for this impaired glucose utilization. High saturated fat intake has been found to increase the risk of several cancers.

Trans fat consumption has decreased over the last ten years, but those who eat a lot of foods high in it are at risk for an increase in the level of several different blood lipids and an increased risk for coronary artery disease. French fries and some baked goods are often high in trans fat.

In his excellent book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser noted that cooking oil used to prepare fries gives them their special taste. Until 1990, McDonald’s prepared fries in a mix that was 93% beef tallow. This created fries that had more saturated fat per ounce than their hamburgers. They switched to vegetable oil with “natural flavor” – a lab concoction that shouldn’t give anyone the idea that it is healthy. French fries absorb a lot of fat and thus pack plenty of calories. Sad to say, fries are a top seller in many types of fast food restaurants, and one that many don’t think of as a source of fat.

Some recent articles have given the false idea that saturated fat really isn’t that unhealthy. But the high calorie count from fat should keep us away from it. And trans fats won’t be cleared of their bad reputation in the near future, or maybe ever. Keep away from both, and, while you’re at it, stay away from those fast food joints.


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