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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Boston, Massachusetts » Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357316

Research Project: Cardiovascular Nutrition and Health

Location: Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging

Title: Temporal trends in fast-food restaurant energy, sodium, saturated fat and trans fat content: 1996-2013

Author
item Urban, Lorien - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University
item Roberts, Susan - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University
item Fierstein, Jamie - Tufts University
item Gary, Christine - Tufts University
item Lichtenstein, Alice - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University

Submitted to: Preventing Chronic Disease
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/15/2014
Publication Date: 12/1/2014
Citation: Urban, L.E., Roberts, S., Fierstein, J.L., Gary, C.E., Lichtenstein, A.H. 2014. Temporal trends in fast-food restaurant energy, sodium, saturated fat and trans fat content: 1996-2013. Preventing Chronic Disease. 11:E229.

Interpretive Summary: Excess intakes of energy, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat are associated with increased risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. We examined the variability of popular food items in 3 fast-food restaurants in the United States by portion size during the past 18 years. Items from 3 national fast-food chains were selected: French fries, cheeseburgers, grilled chicken sandwich, and regular cola. Data on energy, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat content were collated from 1996 through 2013 using an archival website. For most items, energy content per serving differed among chain restaurants for all menu items; energy content of 56% of items decreased and the content of 44% increased. For sodium, the content of 18% of the items significantly decreased and the content for 33% increased. Absolute differences were modest. The saturated and trans fat content, post-2009, was modest for French fries. In 2013, the energy content of a large-sized bundled meal (cheeseburger, French fries, and regular cola) represented 65% to 80% of a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, and sodium content represented 63% to 91% of the 2,300-mg-per-day recommendation and 97% to 139% of the 1,500-mg-per-day recommendation. These findings suggest that efforts to promote reductions in energy, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat intakes need to be shifted from emphasizing portion-size labels to additional factors such as total calories, frequency of eating, number of items ordered, menu choices, and energy-containing beverages.

Technical Abstract: Introduction: Excess intakes of energy, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat are associated with increased risk for cardiometabolic syndrome. Trends in fast-food restaurant portion sizes can inform policy decisions. We examined the variability of popular food items in 3 fast-food restaurants in the United States by portion size during the past 18 years. Methods: Items from 3 national fast-food chains were selected: French fries, cheeseburgers, grilled chicken sandwich, and regular cola. Data on energy, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat content were collated from 1996 through 2013 using an archival website. Time trends were assessed using simple linear regression models, using energy or a nutrient component as the dependent variable and the year as the independent variable. Results: For most items, energy content per serving differed among chain restaurants for all menu items (P </= .04); energy content of 56% of items decreased (beta range, -0.1 to -5.8 kcal) and the content of 44% increased (beta range, 0.6-10.6 kcal). For sodium, the content of 18% of the items significantly decreased (beta range, -4.1 to -24.0 mg) and the content for 33% increased (beta range, 1.9-29.6 mg). Absolute differences were modest. The saturated and trans fat content, post-2009, was modest for French fries. In 2013, the energy content of a large-sized bundled meal (cheeseburger, French fries, and regular cola) represented 65% to 80% of a 2,000-calorie-perday diet, and sodium content represented 63% to 91% of the 2,300-mg-per-day recommendation and 97% to 139% of the 1,500-mg-per-day recommendation. Conclusion: Findings suggest that efforts to promote reductions in energy, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat intakes need to be shifted from emphasizing portion-size labels to additional factors such as total calories, frequency of eating, number of items ordered, menu choices, and energy-containing beverages.