Table of Contents
Throughout the United States – and indeed, in most parts of the globe – it’s impossible to drive down a busy street without passing at least one fast food restaurant. Today, fast food franchises such as McDonalds and Burger King function as America’s cafeteria, feeding millions of people everyday. The efficient service and low cost of the food makes these restaurants tempting for anyone in need of a quick meal. Still, despite these restaurants’ ubiquity, a significant amount of criticism has been levied at them in relation to the food they provide being harmful to the consumers that eat it. The present research examines the multitude of ways that eating at fast food restaurants harms the consumers, with particular emphasis on the nutritional concerns associated with these restaurants, as well as the way they target vulnerable populations.
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Among the greatest dangers of eating at fast food restaurants are the high calories in the meals. While most fast food restaurants now list the calorie count on the menus, it takes an added effort by consumers to properly recognize the dangers of consuming these high calories meals on a regular basis. When such practices are combined with the fast food restaurants’ aggressive marketing, it contributes greatly to obesity within the population that consumes this food. One considers that a Big Mac value meal, which includes fries and a drink, often is around 1,000 calories. With 2,000 calories being the recommended daily diet limit, consuming such a meal at dinner would leave one little room for eating meals the rest of the day and still remaining under the recommended limit. As such, consuming McDonalds as one of the meals of a day makes it impossible for most people to maintain a balanced diet.
Similarly, the consumption of fast food contributes to many health disorders beyond obesity issues caused by the high calories in the food. In these regards, a significant amount of statistics has attested to people consuming fast food being at much higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even depression (Renee, 2017). In regards to type 2 diabetes, a 15-year longitudinal study was conducted among consumers that regularly ate fast food. The research demonstrated that the strong correlation existed between how much fast food people eat and their likelihood of developing insulin resistance, which is also known as pre-diabetes (Pereira et. al., 2005). Specifically, consumers in the study, who were white and black individuals aged between 18-30, exhibited higher levels of insulin resistance at the study’s conclusion if they regularly ate at fast food restaurants more than two times a week.
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As noted, heart disease and depression were also empirically associated with fast food consumption. In these regards, researchers at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada conducted an experiment that examined over 9,000 individuals. Among the findings in this research was that participants that regularly consumed fast food were more statistically likely to report having depression and low moods when compared to people that did not consume fast food. In terms of heart disease, the University of Minnesota carried out a study that examined the consumption of fast food among Singaporean residents. This study found that people in this population that regularly ate fast food had a 50% increased risk of dying from coronary heart disease. Even more startling, when subjects consumed fast food more than four times per week, their risk of dying from coronary heart disease rose to 80% (Renee, 2017). Even eating fast food only one time per week contributed to a 20% increased risk of heart disease (Renee, 2017). Clearly, the implications of such consumption portend grave dangers both in the short and long-term for consumers of these products.
A significant amount of arguments has also condemned fast food based on the very quality of the food itself. In the ground-breaking investigative book “Fast Food Nation,” Eric Schlosser (2012) powerfully criticized the meat packing industry, indicating that in its pursuit of efficiency had adopted practices such as using dead animals, including horses, as well as manure, into the cattle feed, occurred on a periodic basis. The implication of such practices is that the “meat” that people are consuming in fast food may have dangerous elements within it. The spread of e. coli and other bovine diseases may have even been a by-product of such unhealthy fast food production processes. Schlosser isn’t alone in recognizing the dangers of the fast food meat industry. A report that was recently released gave 11 of the top 25 fast food restaurants an F for the quality of meat they were using in consumption, particularly because this meat had a high usage of unsafe anti-biotics (Nedelman, 2017). Such findings are highly serious because they attest to fast food containing dangers that even consumers savvy about calorie counts may not be aware of.
In addition to the nutritional hazards that all people face from consuming fast food, fast food is particularly dangerous in the way that it targets vulnerable people. In this respect, eating at fast food restaurants is also frequently dangerous for the most vulnerable population of consumers – children. Today, nearly 2/3rds of mothers work outside the home, such that the convenience and cost of fast food functions as easy option for feeding their children (Schlosser, 2012). Companies such as McDonalds have long recognized the importance of marketing to children, using characters such as Ronald McDonald, playgrounds, and Happy Meals with toys in them all to attempt to manipulate this segment of the population. Additionally, as Schlosser (2012) noted, McDonalds has aggressively marketed to children on television and other advertisements, even within school systems. While these companies’ marketing alone is not itself harmful to child consumers, when coupled with the recognition that these meals contain very high caloric content and that children do not have the knowledge to understand why consuming such food in moderation is important, the advertising appears to be highly manipulative and dangerous to these children’s current and future health.
Of course, not only children, but also adults, are frequently targeted by fast food companies in ways that they might not be aware. While a substantial amount of empirical evidence attests to the dangerous nature of eating fast food on peoples’ health, among the significant examples of just how dangerous consuming fast food can be for some people was expertly captured by Morgan Spurlock in his documentary “Super Size Me.” In this documentary, director Spurlock visited and ate at a McDonalds three times a day for 30 days. Throughout the 30 days he made sure to eat each item on the menu at least once. Among the important caveats of his daily visits was that if the cashier asked him if he wanted to super size his meal he agreed. At the end of the 30-day period, Spurlock had increased his body mass by 13%, experience sexual dysfunction, and severe mood swings; further, it took him over a year to lose the weight he lost during those 30 days (Spurlock, 2005). The clear implication of this documentary is that the McDonalds food itself does not constitute a regular nutritional part of an individual’s daily diet, but instead a super-charged meal that it’s too high in calories and fats to constitute something that people could safely consume on a regular basis. Of course, since the release of this documentary McDonalds has decreased its policy of asking people to super size meals, yet the underlining recognition of the unhealthy nature of this food, and the at-times manipulative practices used by these franchises to promote it, remains.
In conclusion, the present essay has examined the multitude of ways in which eating at fast food restaurants harms the consumers. Within this spectrum of investigation, the research has shown that the high calorie content of the meals makes it nearly impossible for consumers to eat a balanced diet. In addition to the high calorie content, consumers also faced increased health risks for diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Further, fast food restaurants use aggressive marketing and promotion tactics to lure vulnerable populations. Ultimately, while the fast food industry may have become America’s cafeteria, its ethics are more indicative of a garbage dump.
- Nedelman, M. (2017). Restaurant report card: What’s in your meat?. CNN. Retrieved 6
- November 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/27/health/fast-food-antibiotics-grades/index.html
- Pereira, M. A., Kartashov, A. I., Ebbeling, C. B., Van Horn, L., Slattery, M. L., Jacobs, D. R., &
- Ludwig, D. S. (2005). Fast-food habits, weight gain, and insulin resistance (the CARDIA study): 15-year prospective analysis. The lancet, 365(9453), 36-42.
- Renee, J. (2017). Statistics of Health Risks From Eating Fast Food. LIVESTRONG.COM.
- Retrieved 6 November 2017, from https://www.livestrong.com/article/383621-statistics-of-health-risks-from-eating-fast-food/
- Schlosser, E. (2012). Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
- Spurlock, M. (2005). Super-size me. Apogeo Editore.