Fast food is the top choice item for hard-working people who want to save time and money. It is a reliable and inexpensive meal, which usually pleases the taste buds of an average person. In cities with plethora of eating choices, people prefer the familiar, and the menu at fast food establishments is always consistent. Thousands of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide testify to the popularity of fast food. However, the researchers as well as doctors unanimously emphasize the adverse effects that fast food has on people’s health and lifestyle in general.
Eating habits have changed substantially over the past few decades. Fast food has become a multibillion dollar industry that profoundly influences what and how we eat. Hara Estroff Marano (2010) indicates that “more than a quarter of Americans depend on fast food, and over 30 percent of people consume some fast food on any given day. Americans spend over $134 billion on fast food per year” (p. 45). The underlying idea of fast food is to increase efficiency, allowing people to save their time by having a quick meal and then proceed to matters of the utmost importance. It will not be an exaggeration to state that fast food enjoys popularity in a culture that values time, abundance and instant satisfaction. Fast food reinforces hurry, busyness and impatience that are part and parcel of our modern way of life.
Various studies vividly demonstrate the disadvantages of fast food, which greatly outnumber the advantages. The primary concern of fast food opponents is health issue. It is a well-known fact that home-cooked meal is healthier than fast food. The latter contains higher amounts of salt, fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories. Fast food is accounted for the obesity of the American population. “Nearly two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight, and 30.5% are obese, according to data from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey” (USA Today, 2005, p. 3). Many people nowadays lead a sedentary lifestyle and they do not use up the excess calories and fats they consume with fast food. Consequently, their bodies accumulate fat deposits, which cause various health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart diseases. In fact, fast food triggers various illnesses, which are reinforced by our unhealthy lifestyle. Visiting fast food restaurants on a regular basis will not hit the family’s budget, but will have a toll on their health. Weight gain is a direct outcome of frequent eating at fast food establishments. The study presented by Stender, Dyerberg and Astrup (2007) reinforces this statement:
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“The American population study Cardia suggests that frequent fast-food consumption is positively associated with weight gain and risk of insulin resistance over 15 years. Individuals who had meals at fast-food restaurants more than two times a week gained 4.5 kg more weight and had a 104% greater increase in insulin resistance, at both baseline and follow-up, than individuals who ate less than one fast-food meal per week” (p. 887).
The two features of fast food that lead to obesity are large portion sizes and high energy density (Stender, Dyerberg, & Astrup, 2007). Marano (2010) also underscores that even though people know about high number of calories in meals served at a fast food restaurant, they do not reduce portion sizes and consume more calories than their bodies need. As a matter of fact, “portion sizes of burgers, fried potatoes, pizzas, and soft drinks at fast-food outlets have all increased 2-5-fold over the last 50 years” (Stender, Dyerberg, & Astrup, 2007, p. 888). The portion sizes have become bigger and, as a result, people’s appetites – more voracious. Many fast food lovers fall for this marketing strategy, oblivious to the fact that their eating habits are manipulated and they are lured into consuming more and consequently buy more. The ingredients of fast food meals are often criticized for their unhealthiness, as they are produced at factory farms and provide few nutrients (Marano, 2010). “Industrially produced trans-fatty acids” are found in fast food meals and are also accounted for the increasing obesity rates and the risk of type 2 diabetes in the United States and worldwide (Stender, Dyerberg, & Astrup, 2007, p. 888). Moreover, the consumers may be completely unaware that the same products differ in trans fat content across various fast food outlets in different countries. High-fat diets trigger not only heart diseases, diabetes, and hypertension, but are also produce adverse effects on memory and learning. The researchers suggest that cutting on the amount of dietary fat “may improve memory and help reduce the negative effects of stress and aging on thinking and learning” (USA Today, 2005, p. 3). Stender, Dyerberg, and Astrup (2007) call for simple, yet significant changes aimed at reducing adverse health effects. They pinpoint the need to reduce portion sizes, eliminate industrially produced trans fats, and provide reliable nutritional information.
In fact, people spend more money on fast food than on education, new cars, computers, books, movies, newspapers and music CDs. Obsession with fast food is regarded to be a consequence of present-day consumerism, haste and impatience. The direct ads well as indirect exposure to fast food impacts the decisions people make that go beyond health and nutrition: “Fast food seemed to have made people impatient in a manner that could put their economic interest at risk” (Marano, 2010, p. 46).
Speed and food are closely related these days. Time efficiency is regarded as the first and the foremost advantage of fast food. Living in a fast-paced world, people are concerned with the effective time distribution and very often ready-made food comes as the best solution. It does not matter that chefs and dieticians stress the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables, when one returns home after a tiresome working day as hungry as a bear, grabs a burger or pizza that seem like a godsend. Besides, cooking meal in one’s kitchen is time-consuming, as one has to go to the nearest supermarket and buy the necessary ingredients for the dish and then spend an hour or so near a stove. The outcome of cooking endeavors may not always be delicious. Therefore, eating fast food is a preferred option for a busy individual. It is believed that eating fast food saves not only time, but also money, for it is cheaper than meal prepared in one’s kitchen. Those people, who are paid hourly wages, are eager to give up their free time to earn money (Marano, 2010) and opt for fast food meals.
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The accessibility of fast food is astounding, as it can be found virtually in every nook. Its variety is overwhelming, whether it is Asian, Middle-Eastern or Indian food. Some of the most popular and familiar fast food chains include McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, KFC, Burger King, Sonic, Snip N’ Clip, In-N-Out Burger, Subway, Sunglass Huts, Arby’s, Dunkin’ Donut, etc. No matter where people live, there is a high probability of some kind of fast food near them. Many fast food restaurants offer healthier food, thus keeping up with the recent demands. In addition to favored fries and burgers, customers are provided with such alternatives as salads, fresh fruit, yogurts, grilled chicken, etc. However, these alternatives “do not differ significantly in their acute effects on vascular reactivity” (Nursing Standard, 2007, p. 15).
To sum up, people have become so busy these days that they do not have time to eat food properly. This has caused the emergence of a fast food sector, which places emphasis on the speed of services. Over the years, many fast food chains have established their positions on the market, claiming high quality of their food, consistency of the menu, attention to every customer. Despite numerous drawbacks of fast food and adverse effects on people’s health, new branches of fast food chains are opened in different countries, spreading to every nook and corner of the world. Fast food is something people get easily accustomed to, incorporating it into their daily lives. Fast food phenomenon has greatly impacted the popular culture, ousting the tradition of eating at home. Whether we deny or embrace the popularity of the fast food phenomenon, it remains a part of our national identity, character and well-being.
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