How Much Fast Food Is Too Much?

Dr Handicap - fast food burger

Fast food is one of the world’s communal guilty pleasures; very few populated areas on earth are immune to its charms. But when it comes to the U.S.A., fast food has very much found its spiritual home. America consumes huge amounts of the stuff each year, and the upwards trend doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. Although it’s undoubtedly delicious and convenient, it was bestowed the nickname ‘junk food’ for a very good reason: it just isn’t that good for our bodies. Sure, now and again it’s fine, and mixed in with an otherwise healthy diet it’s a perfectly acceptable treat. But with obesity on the rise in America, the question has to be asked: how much fast food is too much?

First, let’s take a look at some cold, hard statistics. Overall, whether it’s burgers, pizza, hot dogs, or fries, fast food restaurants serve over 50 million customers per day. This means that approximately 16% of the country is eating a portion of fast food every day (not including the people who go back for seconds). To facilitate such demand, leading fast food outlet McDonalds is busy serving up an average of 75 burgers per second, over its 35,000 locations nationwide. The average American citizen spends about $1,200 a year on fast food products – and most concerning of all, on a normal day, 34% of children aged between two and 19 are filling their mouths with the stuff.

The reasons why these stats are dangerous is because fast food has been scientifically proven to cause high cholesterol, which in turn causes heart disease. On top of that, obesity rates in the U.S. have been skyrocketing since the turn of the century, and don’t show any signs of slowing down in the near future. This isn’t just an adult-based trend, either. The latest figures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than one third of adults and 17% of children aged two to 19 are obese. The condition was also cited as a contributing factor to approximately 100– 400,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, burdening health services with ever-increasing expenditure to the tune of $117 billion.

Dr Handicap - pizza

Morbid obesity is considered a handicap in some areas of America and is such a debilitating condition that it becomes very hard for the patient in question to live a normal life. While there are benefits such as handicap parking spaces and disabled parking spots, as well as financial grants and telemedicine to better communicate with doctors from home, morbidly obese people essentially have a very hard time navigating their way through the world. Obesity also takes a very long time to treat – there’s no antibiotics to solve the issue in a week or so. Even with the advent of telemedicine practice, which helps those who can’t access a doctor, obesity is not just a drain on the patient; it’s a drain on America’s healthcare service.

So it should be pretty clear that America has a problem with obesity, and a large part of that problem is the widespread consumption of fast food. We’ve seen the big fast food chains become more conscious in this department, and recently overhaul the way they provide nutritional information to their customers, but this has largely been a token gesture. Consumers haven’t really changed their eating habits based on that fact, and the bright colors of Happy Meals mean that parents still buy their children the food they so desperately want.

Dr Handicap - hot dog

In this critical stage of a person’s development, eating fast food once a week has been shown to have a detrimental effect on a child’s health. Parents should aim for a fast food treat once a month for their kids, and make it just that: a treat. The problem of fast food is compounded by the traditional accompaniment of soft drinks, which are dangerous if consumed in large quantities on their own. Combined with a weekly or more meal of high saturated fats, salts, sugars, and carbohydrates, they are just plain reckless. Fast food can set children up for serious diseases like diabetes, hypertension, or even cancer in the future – so if you’re a parent, make sure you’re aware of exactly what you’re feeding your child, and how often you’re doing it.

Adults should eat fast food no more than twice a month, but regulate that number in accordance with their specific circumstances. For example, if you’re already overweight, you should try to cut out fast food altogether, after consultation with your primary care physician. How much fast food is too much fast food is a question that’s essentially dependent on each person’s unique health, diet, and exercise routine. What’s important to know is that fast food is fundamentally unhealthy for a number of reasons, although it can be reduced to negligible impact if consumed under the right conditions. Ultimately, it’s all about doing what’s best for you, and being smart about what you eat, no matter how tasty it might be.