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Fast food causes obesity...
Fact or fiction?

You have probably heard that fast food causes obesity. Didn't people get fat before there was fast food? Well, not so much.

The world before fast food

Through the 1950's, most Americans were of normal weight. They ate meals at home. One parent, usually dad, went to work. The other parent, usually mom, stayed home. Mom cared for the children, cleaned, and cooked. She fixed breakfast in the morning, made sack lunches, and prepared dinner at night. When dad came home, the family ate together.

Things changed in the 1960's. Women became liberated from traditional roles. Many got advanced degrees or professional training. They entered the workforce in large numbers. They worked full time in challenging jobs. The money they made helped the family enjoy a more comfortable life. Pre-school age children went to day care.

Both parents came home from work tired. The children were hungry and nobody felt like cooking. They all wanted something to eat that was fast and easy. Food companies created TV dinners, which were a big hit. But people had to turn on the oven and wait for the frozen meals to heat. Frozen dinners tasted so-so and they were not cheap.

The beginning of fast food

corn dogs
Then fast food restaurants appeared in large cities. They quickly spread across the country. As the chains got bigger, they became more efficient. Prices came down. 

Fast food chains standardized their recipes so the food tasted consistently good. It was just what busy parents needed. They liked it and their children loved it.

At first, nobody guessed that fast food causes obesity. But in the 1970's, obesity rates in the U.S. began to climb. They have been going up steadily ever since. One third of Americans are now obese. Another third are overweight. Two generations of Americans have now grown up eating fast food. Many people today do not even know how to cook.

Read the book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal by Eric Schlosser. It describes the history of the fast food industry in much more detail. It also discusses the methods the industry uses to maximize profits. We highly recommend it.

Exporting fast food and obesity

Fast food companies were so successful in the U.S. that they expanded to other countries. In the developing world, people like the Chinese had always been slender on their traditional diets of rice and vegetables. They eagerly sampled food from the famous American chains. Fast food had exciting, intense flavors. People got hooked on the taste.

More and more people around the world became addicted to food that made them gain weight. How does fast food cause obesity? Most fast food items have a high calorie density. Read this important information about the calorie content of foods to completely understand the concept of calorie density. On high calorie density foods, we will eat too many calories before we satisfy our hunger.

Fast food is highly processed junk made of cheap ingredients. It contains too much sugar, salt, fat and saturated fat. Fast food often contains harmful trans fats. Fast food is low in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy phytochemicals. It is full of preservatives, artificial flavor enhancers, and artificial colors.

Fast food causes obesity. It also causes heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dozens of other health problems. For a humorous but disturbing look at health, obesity and fast food, see the documentary movie "Supersize Me" starring Morgan Spurlock.

Supersize Me

As an experiment, Spurlock eats three meals a day from McDonald's for thirty days. When he begins the experiment, his doctors tell him he is a healthy young man and that a month of eating fast food won't do him much harm.

Before the month is over, he has gained 25 pounds. He develops liver damage, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. He is depressed and he suffers from mood swings. His doctors are so shocked by his rapid decline that they beg him to end the experiment.

This movie is so powerful, it should be shown in health education classes in every school. Adults and children should watch it together. Whether you are a vegan or not, it will motivate you to improve your diet.

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