Featured Obesity Article


´╗┐Fast Food and Obesity - What's the Truth?

Opinions vary on just how fast food and obesity are connected, but the general consensus is that too much of anything is not healthy. For most medical and nutrition experts, this certainly applies to the types of food U.S. citizens increasingly rely on. As people live an increasingly mobile lifestyle, in which home-cooked meals and family conversation are less important than before, ready-to-eat foods make up much of the U.S. diet.

But does that mean fast food and ready-to-eat meals should be the main target of health professionals' work? Many experts say no. Fast food and obesity may certainly have some direct connection, but for those who work with weight problems every day, fast food is just one factor among many.

Federal and state government agencies have made some effort to get food companies and fast food restaurants to diversify menus and market healthy food choices. This action is applauded by health experts, but with a note of caution. Making fast food and obesity the only object, or even the primary object, of change may not be successful. As one heart health expert wrote, government mandates are not the answer.

Obesity is a complex health condition caused by several factors, including inherited family traits, diet choices, lack of exercise and psychological influences. The presence of numerous factors should lead us away from making the easy fast food and obesity connection, experts state.

It may not help that the word we use to describe this health condition has its roots in the act of eating. The word "obesity" comes from the Latin "obesus," which generally meant stout, fat or plump. It is interesting to find that if we go back even further, the Latin word comes from "edere," which means, "to eat." This connection between eating, stored energy and fat is at the core of medical studies on fast food and obesity.

How much fat a person carries on their body is generally determined by how much of the substance is eaten in the food or how much of the food we eat converts to fat. For example, animals eat carbohydrates and this is easily converted to fat. (Carbohydrates are compounds such as sugars and starches). When this process results in an amount of fat that is beyond what doctors consider average, obesity results.

But, according to information from the Mayo Clinic and other top medical research organizations, family habits and home environment are just as important. Most cultural studies and medical studies show that children between the ages of 6 and 11 cannot change exercise and eating patterns by themselves. When the child has reached this stage, many of the habits developed by living with the family are already formed. Including fast food and obesity as one factor in obesity treatment is fine, as far as it goes, but does it go far enough to explain the health risk of obesity?