With all the news of the growing obesity epidemic, a lot of stories have focused on fast food. Now, a new study suggests that eating a lot of fast food not only leads to weight gain, but it also may lead to a host of other health issues linked to heart disease and cancer development.
This might be one of those ‘duh’ studies but for those of us who go out to eat frequently, it’s nice to see a study that differentiates between fast food and sit-down style restaurants, as this study did. (Most studies on this issue group all restaurants together.)
In the study, the University of North Carolina researchers looked at data spanning 13 years from 3,643 young adults who were participants in a cardiovascular study. The cardiovascular study – called CARDIA – collected data on the participants every few years.
The goal was to see how eating away from home related to a cluster of factors associated with the metabolic syndrome, including a high BMI, large waist, and high blood pressure. Metabolic syndrome puts people at higher risk for heart disease, but a lot of studies have shown it also puts them at risk for cancer development. This makes sense, given that AICR’s new report found obesity causes an estimated 100,000 cases of cancer a year.
Overall, compared to the diners who ate the least fast food, those diners who ate at fast food places the most often weighed more, had larger waists, higher triglycerides, and showed many of the other signs of metabolic syndrome. Eating at sit-down style restaurants was unrelated to these risk factors. But whether it was at a fast food or sit-down restaurant, people who increased the amount of times they ate out per week over the course of the study experienced a slight increase in weight and waste size.
Want some help choosing what to eat at restaurants? Many fast food places have their nutritional information online. You can also find a lot of the places on one site at Fatburgr.
Exercise may not be a natural instinct for many but people can change their behavior and integrate more activity into their lives. Stealth health, or the small change approach was the positive message of Dr. James O. Hill, from the University of Colorado at Denver. In order to do that, we need to think outside the box, getting communities involved and changing the culture.
Dr. Hill noted how there are very, very few people who can maintain a healthy weight if they are sedentary. In order to avoid the 1-2 pound average annual weight gain, we would need to burn about 100 calories a day. To lose about 10 to 15% of body weight one needs to burn about 200 to 300 calories per day.
The goal is to change people’s behavior but for long term change there needs to be some motivators, such as money or offsetting greenhouse gas.
He spoke about his efforts to involve the community: developers, builders, hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants – name it and it sounds like he has approached them. Get a pedometer in the grocery store and the more steps you take, the more discounts you get on the product. Every person in the community has a stake in this issue, just some people don’t know it.
A lot of people doing small change will help promote the results we want.
Dr. Hill also has a book on the small change approach.
There are a lot of insights coming from three major exercise intervention studies. The studies, presented by exercise physiologist Dr. Kathryn Schmitz are the findings of Dr. Anne McTiernan (she was sick), whose goal is to better understand how aerobic interventions affect signs of cancer in the body in middle aged to older adults.
Here’s a great one: Women meet 80% of their exercise goal, and it doesn’t matter what the goal is – high or low.
Other conclusions from the studies: gender matters. We don’t know why yet, said Dr. Schmitz, but men and women show different results. And also, people need a good pair of sneakers.
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American Institute for Cancer Research
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