The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Fast Food Has Gotten Less Healthy in Last 30 Years
Firdaus Jurahel / EyeEm / Getty Images
Despite growing awareness of the health risks posed by fast food, and an increased push to add healthier menu items, fast food has actually gotten worse for you in the past 30 years.
That's the finding of a major study conducted by researchers at Boston and Tufts Universities and published Wednesday in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which Boston University says is the most in-depth and longest-period look at how the caloric and nutritional content of fast food has changed over the years.
"Our study offers some insights on how fast food may be helping to fuel the continuing problem of obesity and related chronic conditions in the United States. Despite the vast number of choices offered at fast-food restaurants, some of which are healthier than others, the calories, portion sizes and sodium content overall have worsened (increased) over time and remain high," lead author Dr. Megan A. McCrory of the Department of Health Sciences at Sargent College, Boston University said in an Elsevier press release republished by ScienceDaily.
The researchers looked at meals from the 10 top fast food restaurants, according to sales data, including McDonald's, Dairy Queen and KFC. They took snapshots of menu offerings in 1986, 1991 and 2016 to assess how the portion size and calorie, sodium, calcium and iron content of desserts, entrees and sides had changed over time.
Here are the key findings:
- The number of menu items increased by 226 percent over the study period.
- The portion sizes increased by 13 grams per decade for entrees and 24 grams per decade for desserts.
- Calories increased by 30 calories per decade for entrees and 62 calories per decade for desserts.
- The percentage of recommended sodium based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet increased by 4.6 percent for entrees, 3.9 percent for sides and 1.2 percent for desserts per decade on average.
- Four of the 10 restaurants had data on calcium and iron content. For these restaurants, the percent of daily recommended calcium content of desserts increased by 3.9 percent and the percent of daily recommended iron content increased by 1.4 percent on average per decade
While McCrory said this last change was positive, fast food was still not a good source of these nutrients.
"Although these increases seem desirable, 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," McCrory said in the Boston University press release.
The study acknowledged that fast food is an important part of U.S. eating habits, constituting 11 percent of U.S. daily calorie consumption from 2007 to 2010. Because of this, McCrory said she hoped the study could lead to more research on how to encourage healthier fast food options.
"We need to find better ways to help people consume fewer calories and sodium at fast-food restaurants," she said in the Elsevier release. "The requirement that chain restaurants display calories on their menus is a start. We would like to see more changes, such as restaurants offering smaller portions at ... proportional prices," she concluded.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dan Gray
- Research shows that 16 weeks of a vegan diet can boost the gut microbiome, helping with weight loss and overall health.
- A healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. A plant-based diet is the best way to achieve this.
- It isn't necessary to opt for a strictly vegan diet, but it's beneficial to limit meat intake.
New research shows that following a vegan diet for about 4 months can boost your gut microbiome. In turn, that can lead to improvements in body weight and blood sugar management.
By Jeff Turrentine
Nearly 20 years have passed since the journalist Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term tipping point, in his best-selling book of the same name. The phrase denotes the moment that a certain idea, behavior, or practice catches on exponentially and gains widespread currency throughout a culture. Having transcended its roots in sociological theory, the tipping point is now part of our everyday vernacular. We use it in scientific contexts to describe, for instance, the climatological point of no return that we'll hit if we allow average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But we also use it to describe everything from resistance movements to the disenchantment of hockey fans when their team is on a losing streak.
By Mark Mancini
On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.
By Alex Schwartz
Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.
I’m a Psychotherapist – Here’s What I’ve Learned From Listening to Children Talk About Climate Change
By Caroline Hickman
Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?