Will fast food ever stop being a central part of the average American’s diet? According to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it seems unlikely. Even though 65.7% of American kids and adolescents (ages two-19) don’t eat fast food at all on an average day, 12.1% eat enough fast food on any given day to equal at least 40% of their daily caloric intake.
The findings are troubling for several different reasons, as the CDC and USA Today both noted.
First, someone who consumes a large amount of fast food during childhood and adolescence is more likely to maintain a poor diet as an adult. Considering that 69% of American adults (ages 20+) are obese or overweight already, experts believe that the country’s overall health is going to decrease even more; the CDC noted in its study that from 1994 to 2006, the caloric intake from fast food increased from 10% to 13%.
Second, the study also found a surprising lack of correlation between how much fast food a child eats and what the child’s poverty status is. Previously, researchers believed that poorer families purchased more fast food because they couldn’t afford healthier options — now it’s clear that socioeconomic status has nothing to do with it, and instead it’s just a habit learned at a young age.
And the thing is, the dangers of fast food aren’t just obvious after a long period of time — within just 60 minutes of consuming a McDonald’s Big Mac, according to the experts at Fast Food Menu Price, the human body goes through some pretty uncomfortable processes that leave you feeling hungry and tired.
NBC Chicago reported that the average Big Mac has about 540 calories, 25 grams of protein, 28 grams of fat, 47 grams of carbs and 970 milligrams of sodium.
Consuming just one of these burgers raises the body’s blood sugar after 10-20 minutes, producing a sugar high that actually mimics a real drug-induced high.
After 30 minutes, the sodium kicks in and dehydrates the body. After 40 minutes, insulin levels spike and make the body hungry again, and after 60 minutes, the digestive system slows to a screeching halt. In fact, in an infographic created by Fast Food Menu Price, it’s noted that one Big Mac can take up to three days to digest fully.
Many health and nutrition experts have stated that these effects aren’t standard across the board, since everyone’s body responds a bit differently to any type of food. But something they all agree on is that fast food isn’t good for you — not just because it’s habit-forming in the long run, but because it has very real effects almost immediately.
With that in mind, it’s a bit easier to understand how Americans can actually be addicted to fast food. It’s also a bit easier to see why this addiction spans all age groups, races, and socioeconomic levels.