Fast foods have become increasingly popular among Americans, including children. Due to increased advertising, an exponential rise in fast food restaurants and Americans’ fast-paced lifestyle, fast food has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Fast food has had a negative impact on Americans of all ages, especially children, as it has been linked to serious health problems ranging from obesity to diabetes.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, between 16 and 33 percent of children in the United States are obese. Children are considered obese when they are 20 percent or more above the normal weight for their age and height. Obesity is caused by eating more calories than the body burns. Fast foods are notoriously high in calories and fat, and the consumption of fast food is linked to obesity, according to a study in the 2004 issue of "Pediatrics." A burger from one popular fast food chain, for instance, contains 670 calories and 39 grams of fat, which is considered high in calories and almost at the daily recommended amount of fat -- 40 grams -- per person, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines.
The high fat and cholesterol in most fast foods have been linked to a variety of heart problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, strokes and heart attacks. A study in the 2013 "Hormone Research in Paediatrics," children who are overweight are more prone to having high blood pressure, which is a dangerous condition with no symptoms that can lead to heart disease if left untreated. High cholesterol, which is caused by too much fat buildup in the arteries, also has no symptoms, and can result in stroke if untreated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five American teens has high cholesterol. The high saturated fat content of many fast food items can cause high cholesterol.
Diabetes is a metabolism disorder that is characterized by insulin problems, which results in an inability to break down sugar in the body. Eating too much sugar is a contributing factor to developing diabetes. Many fast food items are high in sugar, some containing more than the recommended daily amount in just one food item. The Center for Science in the Public Interest performed a study concluding that 59 percent of the fast food products marketed to children did not meet CSPI’s nutrition standards. All of the sweet snacks, fruit-flavored snacks and cookies in the study were found lacking in nutrients. Many of these foods are high in sugar, which increases the risk of childhood diabetes.
- Pediatrics: Effects of Fast Food Consumption on Children
- Health Food Guide: Fast Food Effects on Health
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Obesity in Children and Teens
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Better for Who?
- Hormone Research in Paediatrics: Body Mass Index or Waist Circumference: Which is the Better Predictor for Hypertension and Dyslipidemia in Overweight/Obese Children and Adolescents? Association of Cardiovascular Risk Related to Body Mass Index or Waist Circumference
- The Washington Post: Fast Food Calorie Counter