Thirty years of fast food: more variety, but more salt, larger portions and more calories


Philadelphia, February 27, 2019 – Despite the addition of healthy menus, fast food is even more unhealthy than it was 30 years ago. An analysis of the offers offered in 10 of the most popular American fast food restaurants in 1986, 1991 and 2016, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, shows that fast food, side dishes and fast food desserts have increased significantly in calories and sodium and that portions of desserts and desserts have increased in size over time. It also shows that while the variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts climbed 226%, new or discontinued items tend to be less healthy than those available throughout the study period.

"Our study provides insight into how fast food can help exacerbate the persistent problem of obesity and related chronic diseases in the US Despite the large number of choices offered in fast food restaurants, some of which are healthier than others, the calories, portion sizes and overall sodium content have deteriorated over time and remain high, "said lead investigator Megan A. McCrory , PhD, Department of Health Sciences, Sargent College, Boston University, Boston, MA.

Fast food restaurants are on the rise worldwide. In the United States, approximately 37% of adults (over the age of 20) consume fast foods daily, reaching 45% of adults aged 20 to 39 years. A meal with entree and side provides on average 767 kcal, nearly 40% of a 2,000 calorie diet a day. Add a caloric drink and the amount goes to 45-50% of a person's daily calorie intake. Dr. McCrory said, "Given the popularity of fast food, our study highlights one of the changes in our eating environment that is likely to be responsible for the increase in obesity and chronic conditions. in recent decades, which are now among the leading causes of death in the United States. "

Dr. McCrory and colleagues examined changes over the 30-year period from 1986 to 2016 in terms of energy, portion size, energy density, sodium, iron and calcium contained in dishes main dishes, dishes and desserts offered by 10 of the fastest -Restaurants food (according to sales). The data were collected using the Guide to Fast Food, published in 1986 and 1991, and online sources in 2016. The main findings are as follows:

  • The total number of appetizers, desserts and side dishes increased by 226%, or 22.9 items per year.
  • Calories in all three categories increased significantly, with the largest increases in desserts (62 kcal per decade), followed by main courses (30 kcal per decade). These increases are mainly due to the increase in portion size, which was statistically significant in the main course categories (13 grams per decade) and desserts (24 grams per decade).
  • Sodium has also increased significantly in all menu categories.
  • In four of the ten restaurants studied, information on calcium and iron content was available. Calcium has increased significantly in main courses and desserts, while iron levels have increased significantly in desserts.

The modification of calcium and iron levels in certain menu categories, particularly desserts, is a positive development, as these nutrients are important for good bone mass and the prevention of anemia. However, investigators point out that there are better sources without high calories and sodium. Dr. McCrory expressed the hope that the results of the study would lead to increased awareness and creative solutions. "We need to find better ways to help people consume fewer calories and sodium in fast food restaurants." The requirement for restaurant chains to display calories in their menus is We would like to see more changes, such as restaurants offering reduced portions a proportional price, "she concluded.


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