Eating meals and other foods from fast-food and full-service restaurants appears to be associated with increased calorie intake for adults, as well as a higher intake of saturated fat and sodium, according to a study conducted by Drs Binh Nguyen and Lisa Powell of the American Cancer Society and University of Illinois published in Public Heath Nutrition.

The study, by Binh T. Nguyen, Ph.D. of the American Cancer Society, Economic and Health Policy Research and Lisa M. Powell, Ph.D. of the University of Illinois at Chicago, examined the effect of fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption on adults’ energy intake and dietary indicators using data from the 2003–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The full sample included 12,528 respondents aged 20–64 years who reported what they ate for two full days.

Parallel to the rising obesity epidemic in the U.S.A, there has been a marked upward trend in total energy intake derived from consuming food away from home. By 2008, the percentage of calories Americans derived from fast-food and full-service restaurants reached 24%, up from 14% in the 1970s.

For study participants, eating at a fast-food restaurant was associated with a net increase in total daily energy intake of 194 kcal, and with higher intakes of saturated fat (3.48 g), sugar (3.95 g) and sodium (296. mg). Eating at a full-service restaurant also was associated with an energy intake increase of 205 kcal, and with higher intake of saturated fat (2.52 g) and sodium (451 mg). Thus, on days when people are consuming fast food and full-service restaurant foods, they do not reduce their intake of saturated fat, sugar or sodium intake or their calorie consumption in other areas of their diet. In an era when policymakers are considering restrictions on unhealthy foods as a means to counter the obesity epidemic, the results suggest that policies intended to limit access to unhealthy foods and beverages should apply to both full-service and fast-food restaurants.

The researchers also noted that the impacts of restaurant food consumption varied by race and socio-economic status. Restaurant consumption was associated with greater adverse impacts for blacks and middle-income adults compared to their white and Hispanic, and their high-income counterparts, respectively. Given that larger effects on energy intake and diet quality were found for some lower socio-economic and minority populations, policies aimed at improving diet and reducing energy intake from restaurant sources may help to reduce racial and socio-economic disparities in Americans’ diets.

Read the full article here until 7th September 2014

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