Fast food and obesity

IN In our study of the geographical clustering of adult body mass index (BMI) in Malaysia, clusters of high BMI were found in males in suburban areas with moderate and high access to fast food restaurants.

Since most men work, long hours mean they spend more time outdoors, where dining out and increased consumption of processed foods are inevitable.

This, coupled with better access to restaurants, reduces the frequency of home cooking.

When eating out, eating decisions tend to be spontaneous and quick, influenced by appetite, financial constraints and whether the environment encourages spending on healthy or unhealthy eating.

The availability, accessibility and affordability of unhealthy food facilitates unhealthy eating and reinforces its preferences and demands, creating a vicious cycle of an unhealthy environment in which the appetite control system becomes desensitized.

Therefore, weight control can be challenging in an environment that reduces the willpower to eat healthily.

In Malaysia, fast food consumption is widespread in rural (32.7% once a month), suburban (17.4% at least once a week) and urban (25% more than four times a month) communities, particularly among university students.

At the same time, only 5% of our population eats five servings of fruit and vegetables daily as recommended.

Habitual fast food consumption is associated with a taste preference for fried and sweet foods, higher calorie intake, higher intake of sugary beverages, and lower intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables during the rest of the day and even on a non-fasting day. day of eating.

Meals from fast-food restaurants tend to be high in calories and fats, including trans fats and salt, while beverages are the biggest contributor to calorie discrepancies.

Frequent and long-term consumption of these foods amplifies the expression of obesity-associated genetic variants and increases the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. In addition to chronic inflammation, fast food consumption also impairs host defenses against viruses and increases the risk of severe Covid-19 morbidity and mortality.

So, in connection with World Obesity Day, let’s focus on creating a healthier food environment.

In addition to fast food franchises, all restaurants are also responsible. Here are some recommendations:

The fast food industry should always make healthier options available, e.g. such as corn, fruit and vegetable salad, low-fat milk, whole wheat bread, cereal, plain water, non-caloric beverages, etc.;

Restaurants must reduce the amount of sugar and salt used in cooking and preparing food and add fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the menu; And

Customers need to make their demands for healthier food choices known to the industry.

Obesity is a public health war that we cannot afford to lose. It takes a concerted effort to overcome such a huge challenge.

Kimberly Wong Yuin Y’ng (PhD student) and Prof. Dr. Moy Foong Ming are from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Malaya. Comments: Fast food and obesity

Russell Falcon

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