The term “fast food” generally refers to food that people intend to consume quickly, either on- or off-site. There is plenty of well-researched evidence demonstrating the various negative health effects of eating and overeating fast food, in both the short- and long-term.
Many fast food establishments now list the number of calories each item contains. However, this is only part of the consideration of whether it is healthy or not.
Fast food is typically poor in terms of nutrition. According to a
However, not all fast food has negative impacts, and a person can make an informed choice by researching the nutritional content of particular fast food items. People can find this information on the websites of most major restaurants.
That said, even the more healthy fast food items are generally high in sugar, salt, saturated fats, and trans fats. The
Fast food is typically high in sugar, salt, and saturated or trans fats. The body’s reaction to these nutrients results in a range of short-term impacts when a person eats fast food.
Spike in blood sugar
Fast food breaks down quickly, causing a rapid spike in blood sugar because of the refined carbohydrates and added sugar. In turn, this causes an
A single serving of fast food could increase inflammation throughout the body. A
Affects nutrient intake
Fast food does not typically contain fresh fruit and vegetables. If an individual eats fast food frequently, they may find it challenging to reach their recommended daily intake of at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables. They may also have difficulties reaching their ideal fiber intake, which according to the Food and Drug Administration is
Fast food is highly palatable, meaning the body breaks it down quickly in the mouth, and it does not need much chewing. Therefore, it activates the reward centers in the brain rapidly.
This combination trains the palate to prefer these highly processed, highly stimulating foods and reduces someone’s desire for whole, fresh foods.
There is plenty of well-researched evidence showing that regularly eating fast food can harm a person’s health.
Many fast food meals are extremely low in fiber. Doctors associate low-fiber diets with a
Immunity and inflammation
A 2019 review examined the effects of a Western diet on a person’s immune system. This diet consists of high amounts of sugar, salt, and saturated fat from only a few sources.
The authors noted that a Western diet could lead to higher inflammation, lower control of infection, higher cancer rates, and a higher risk of allergic and autoinflammatory disease.
Memory and learning
The FDA also notes that a diet high in trans fats
The United States Department of Agriculture points out that typical fast food contains a very high number of calories. If a person eats more calories than they burn each day, they gain weight, which may lead to obesity.
According to the
Another consequence of younger people regularly eating fast food is their unintentional lack of understanding of basic meal preparation, cooking, and healthy eating.
Over time, this perpetuates dependence on fast food, and people may not learn how to prepare healthy, balanced food in the home. Consuming healthy meals can support a person’s long-term health throughout their lifespan.
Fast food tends to be high in salt, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, calories, and processed preservatives and ingredients. A wealth of well-conducted research has proven the negative health effects of consuming too much of these food components.
In the short term, fast food impacts blood sugar and blood pressure, increases inflammation, and may mean an individual does not eat enough necessary nutrients. In the long term, a diet rich in fast food could lead to issues with digestion, immunity, inflammation, heart health, obesity, and more.
Not all fast food is bad, however. Certain menu items might be lower in these substances than others, while some fast food outlets might focus on providing more healthy options.
To preserve health, a person should try to identify fast food items that contain less salt, fat, sugar, and total carbohydrates, and generally try to limit the amount of fast food they consume.