The researchers found that Chinese adults who live in Singapore and consume American-style fast foods, on average, twice each week, had a 56% higher risk of dying from heart disease and a 27% greater chance of developing diabetes type 2, compared to their counterparts who never ate American-style junk foods. Those who ate fast foods at least four times per week were 80% more likely to die from coronary heart disease.
Lead author, Andrew Odegaard, Ph.D., M.P.H., said:
"Western style fast food intake in East and Southeast Asia started becoming more prominent in the late 1980s into the 1990s. This provided an avenue to participate in American culture, which is very different from the historical dietary culture of these populations."
When the study participants entered the Singapore Chinese Health Study, they were aged from 45 to 74 years. The study lasted from 1993 to 2009 (16 years). By the end of the study, 1,397 had died from coronary heart disease and 2,252 were newly diagnosed with diabetes.
Researchers used a questionnaire constructed specifically to identify the types of food consumed in the Asian population, looking for 165 different food items that are commonly eaten. Six main fast food items - french fries, pizza, deep fried chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers & cheeseburgers were included, as well 'other fast food sandwiches'.
Western or North American-style fast foods are considered to be unhealthy, due to high content of refined carbohydrates, processed meat and fat. The portions are often large and high in sodium and cholesterol. Those found to be eating these kinds of foods showed a reduced intake of vegetables, dairy, rice, carbohydrates, rice and dizetary fiber. To their credit, they were educated, smoked less, and were more likely to be physically active, this profile obviously makes them less likely to have high blood pressure, but nonetheless, this kind of diet doesn't bode well later in life, increasing the risks of cardiovascular problems and type two diabetes amongst other problems.
The constant 'Americanization' of the world continues at a fast pace, with multi-national companies spreading their outlets into developing countries at an increasing rate. The study's author, Odegaard, said that the research indicated that more attention was needed to understand the changes in diet and habits as different cultures interact more with each other.
It's clear that the increasing obesity in North America and Europe is a product of diet and lifestyle and concerns are mounting about looming health implications for future generations, with some predicting an avalanche of type two diabetes and cardiovascular problems over the next few decades. Clearly, this problem is not confined to Caucasians, it's simply a question of cultural and dietary habits that can weigh heavily on the health.
Written by Rupert Shepherd