The rise and rise of the fast food industry

Portion size to calorie intake, study sheds light on how fast food is causing various lifestyle diseases

By Meenakshi Sushma
Published: Tuesday 05 March 2019
Representative Photo: Getty Images

Changes in portion sizes, energy contents and nutrient profiles of fast food over the last 30 years shows how these have led to lifestyle diseases.

Till now, research has revolved around trans-fat, high intake of sugars and salt leading to cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, etc. However, according to a study, by Boston University and Tufts University, comparison between the portion size and calorie intake from fast food, between 1986 and 2016, shows a drastic increase in all the parameters.

However, there has been an increase in levels of calcium and iron, especially in desserts, according to the study that looked at fast food brands like, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen and KFC. On average per decade, the daily value of calcium increased by 3.9 per cent in desserts and the daily value of iron increased 1.4 per cent. 

Even though this rise could be good for treating anaemia and calcium deficiency, “people should not be consuming fast food to get more calcium and iron in their diet because of the high calories and sodium that come along with it,” Megan McCrory, lead author of the study, was quoted as saying in a report.

The report analysed 1,787 menu items and grouped the items into — entrées, sides, and desserts. It notes that while entrées gained an average of 30 calories per decade, sides did not increase much in calories but became saltier. 

It assumes importance as nearly 36 per cent of adults in the US consume fast food. “Between 1986 and 2016, the number of items offered on restaurant menus grew a staggering 226 per cent, an average of 22.9 items per year. Along with the menu expansions, researchers found that portion sizes and calories had increased as well,” McCrory was quoted as saying.

Advent of fast food in India

In India, increase in disposable income has in turn increased the frequency of dinning out. Big fast food chains like McDonald’s came to India in 1996, and soon other big outlets like Dominos, Pizza Hut, KFC, etc, followed suit, according to a study by AIIMS, Bangalore.

According to another report, Indian fast food market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18 per cent by 2020 due to changing consumer behaviour and demography.

This indicates that India is sailing in the same boat as US when it comes to fast food consumption. The latest findings should be taken as a benchmark and, we should work towards cutting down the fast food consumption in order to lead a healthy life.

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