A 2003 study revealed that fat, energy, sodium and saturated fat intake were higher, and vitamin A and C intakes were lower, on days when diners ate fast foods. "The increased consumption of fast food and the increased energy and fat intakes may be related to increasing problems with overweight and obesity seen today," says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy.
The results of the study, which examined the dietary intake of individuals consuming fast food one day compared to a day when fast food was not consumed was published in the October 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The study used data from 1994-1998 Continuing Survey of Food Intake of Individuals (CSFII), a large sample of more than 17,000 individuals. The CSFII is a continuing study of civilian population in the United States to assess sociodemographic, dietary and health data of adults and children.
Dietary intake was collected by two non-consecutive, 24-hour dietary recalls conducted three to 10 days apart on different days of the week. Fast-food intake recall was prompted by using the names of fast-food establishments and commercial names of fast-food items.
Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, internationally known obesity research center located in Baton Rouge, analyzed the large data set to find out if there were differences in the days when fast food was consumed versus days when no fast food was consumed.
Researchers involved in this study were Dr. Sahasporn Paeratakul, Dr. Catherine Champaign, Dr. Donna Ryan and Dr. George Bray from Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Ms. Daphne Ferdinand, RN, from Southern University School of Nursing, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Results showed that significantly more fast food was consumed by those who were younger, ages 10 to 39 years, than older individuals. The lowest consumption of fast food was in those 60 years of age and older. Men consumed significantly more fast food than women. Individuals with higher income and higher education reported more fast food intake than those with lower income and lower educational level.
"When food groups were compared in the days when fast food was consumed versus on the days fast food was not consumed, there were several significant differences," Roy says. On fast-food intake days, there was significantly lower intake of breads and cereals, vegetables, fruits, milk and legumes than on non fast-food days. On the other hand, the intake of chicken, meat mixtures, fried potatoes and carbonated soft drinks was higher.
When nutrient intake was compared between fast- food and non-fast food days, total energy, fat, saturated fat, calcium and sodium intakes were higher, while carbohydrate, protein, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and beta carotene intakes were lower when fast food was consumed.
"The present study demonstrates that individuals choosing fast food as part of their daily diet were consuming more fat and energy than on non-fast- food days," the LSU AgCenter nutritionist says.
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend reducing intake of dietary fat, especially saturated fat, and increasing the consumption of dietary fiber by consuming more whole- grain products. The Food Guide Pyramid developed by the United States Department of Agriculture recommends 6-10 servings from the cereal and bread group.
In this study, individuals consumed significantly fewer fruits and vegetables during the fast-food days. Several studies indicate that Americans are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables. The Food Guide Pyramid recommends 3-5 servings of vegetables every day and 2-4 servings of fruit.
"When frequenting fast- food restaurants, choose lower fat, smaller versions of the products to stay within recommendations for fat and energy," Roy advises. Leaving out high fat sauces and mayonnaise can also cut down on fat and cholesterol. Also, think about substituting a small salad for fried potatoes next time you eat at a fast-food restaurant.
"If you top your salad with non-fat or reduced-fat salad dressing, you can reduce fat and calories and increase beta carotene and vitamin C, important antioxidants for fighting infection and the risk for cancer," Roy notes.
For additional nutrition information and other family and consumer topics, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. Also, visit the Food & Health section of the LSU AgCenter Web site.
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