Grabbing a Quick Bite Nabs More Calories
May 21, 2004
Every day, about one-fourth of U.S. adults over age 20 eat fast
food and drink twice as many sugary, carbonated soft drinks as those who don't
eat fast food, a new Agricultural Research
Service study of more than 9,000 survey respondents reports. These
fast-food eaters consumed substantially higher amounts of calories, fats,
carbohydrates, added sugars and proteins than their non-fast-food-eating
The study was led by ARS nutritionist Shanthy A. Bowman, with
the agency's Beltsville (Md.) Human
Nutrition Research Center. ARS is the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
Foods obtained from pizza and fast food places were collectively
defined as fast food in the study.
The nationally representative respondents were surveyed for two
nonconsecutive days by USDA-ARS. Those who consumed fast food on either or both
days, when compared to those who didn't, showed higher mean body mass indexes
and higher odds of being overweight.
Although fast food provided one-third of some respondents' daily
caloric intakes, those meals included almost no milk, fruit or fruit juices,
which are important nutrient sources among key food groups. In fact, as the
frequency of fast food consumption increased from zero days to two days, the
intake levels of vitamins A and C, carotenes, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium
The existing USDA dietary intake
which the authors analyzed, was collected in the mid-1990s. The results showed
a significant increase in fast food consumption from the early 1990s, when the
previous survey had been conducted.
Increased work-week hours and a doubling of the number of U.S.
fast food restaurants to about 250,000 in the past 25 years have influenced the
amount of time people spend on food shopping and meal preparation. The
researchers concluded that planning weekly meals and related grocery shopping
will help adults resist the fast-meal decisions that lead to grabbing a quick
The study appears in the current
Journal of the
American College of Nutrition.