Did you know that the first fast-food chain emerged in 1921? White Castle opened the country’s first restaurant in Kansas that adopted an assembly-line technology to prepare tasty and standardized food quickly (Diamond, 2019). Did you know why this type of restaurant became so popular in the 1950-60s? Well, the main reasons behind this are the newly built highways across the nation and American on-the-go lifestyle development. Fast food is terrible and unhealthy since it is rich in calories, saturated fats, carbs, and processed ingredients. Everybody knows about it but still consumes such products due to their convenience, affordability, and taste. Today, I am going to inform you about the effect of junk food on Americans.
Like other students here, I like the junk food taste (crispy, salted, sweetened, juicy, etc.) but simultaneously hate it for the harm. For that reason, I decided to research how fast food actually impacts our nation and motivate myself to eat right. Regular intake of fast food and processed products not only contributes to obesity and chronic diseases, it also has a causative role in mental illness. To better understand the impact of fast food, we need to look at main statistics, current diabetic trends, and discuss the mental side of the problem. I will begin with statistics and an overview of the major effects.
Overview of Main Effects
Fast food is directly associated with prevailed obesity that has taken the shape of an epidemic in the US. To gain weight, every person has to reduce physical activity and eat more. According to CDC (2021), more than 42% of Americans are obese, approximately 10% suffer from severe obesity, and 30% are overweight. It means that more than 85% of us have problems with diet and active lifestyles. It was also calculated that only 5% were able to maintain a normal weight and healthy lifestyle, avoiding cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, and diseases that influence the body mass (Fuhrman, 2018).
The main problem is that many Americans just overeat and limit their physical activity. Nevertheless, junk food consumption remains the primary source of excessive calories. Many different studies confirmed that those who visited fast-food restaurants more than twice a week gained significantly more weight than other participants (Quinlan, 2019). In its turn, obesity contributes to the development of serious chronic diseases.
The latter is a risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, liver and kidney disease, and even certain cancers. Fuhrman (2018) reports that a lack of fresh vegetables/fruits and an abundance of processed food in a dietary pattern 7 times increases early-life stroke risk. Moreover, the vulnerable social groups who cannot afford healthy food have 4 times the risk of renal failure, double the risk of diabetes, and double the risk of heart attacks. Refined carbohydrates together with animal products and saturated fats not only make us diabetic or overweight, but they also may cause dementia, cancer, and heart disease.
Now that I have discussed the main effects of fast food consumption, I will now address the diabetes issue. Diabetes is a severe chronic illness that cannot be curable. Fast food is dangerous for people with diabetes since its components can break down quickly in the body, resulting in a rapid blood sugar level surge. Unhealthy eating also causes type 2 diabetes by promoting insulin resistance and weight gain. According to the CDC (2020), more than 34 million Americans (13%) have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. What is more interesting is that people of Asian, Black, and Hispanic ethnicities represent a higher percentage than the white population. For another time, we can see confirmation that cheaper fast-food harms more economically vulnerable societies.
Mental Health Issues
There is a link between fast food consumption and various adverse mental conditions. A small dose of food rich in fats may be useful and even necessary for our brain’s proper functioning. Nevertheless, it was found that excess causes an inflammatory response, ultimately leading to anxiety and depression (Van Hare, 2017). Excessive carbohydrates of fast food cause rapid blood sugar fluctuations. Hence, too low blood sugar may lead to insomnia, anxiety symptoms, and panic attacks. The Internet-based survey revealed that adults under 30 who used to consume fast food more than three times a week received more negative results (Van Hare, 2017).
Their perceived mental distress was higher than before. Instead, the consumption of fruits rich in antioxidants was found to be beneficial for the brain. When individuals regularly eat fruits and limit carbohydrates from other sources, they are more likely to be happy.
In summary, fast food consumption negatively affects the health of Americans. Unrestrained and regular fast food intake causes obesity and a plethora of serious chronic illnesses. It also significantly influences brain performance and mental state. Every decision to choose fast food instead of healthy meals poses a threat to our body shape and health in the long run. All earlier mentioned studies suggest eating more fruits and vegetables instead of junk food and sweets. Nevertheless, remember that everybody is free to decide how to live, what to eat, and look different.
CDC. (2020). Prevalence of both diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes. Web.
CDC. (2021). Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among adults aged 20 and Over: United States, 1960–1962 through 2017–2018. Web.
Diamond, A. (2019). A crispy, salty, American history of fast food. Smithsonian Magazine. Web.
Fuhrman, J. (2018). The hidden dangers of fast and processed food. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 12(5), 375-381. Web.
Quinlan, J. (2019). Does fast food cause obesity?. Bariatric Surgery Source. Web.
Van Hare, H. (2017). Fast food really can cause mental distress, study says. Los Angeles Times. Web.