You already know that you have to watch what you eat if you have diabetes. But did you know that even healthy young adults need to watch what they eat, especially when it comes to fast food?
It turns out that young adults who eat frequently at fast-food restaurants gain more weight and have a greater increase in insulin resistance in early middle age. This is according to a large study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and published in the January 1, 2005, issue of The Lancet.
In comparing groups of young adults, researchers looked at young adults (between 18 and 30 years old) who ate at fast-food restaurants more than twice each week against those who did so less than once a week. After 15 years, those who ate fast food more often had gained an extra ten pounds and were twice as likely to be insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease.
“Obesity and diabetes are on the rise in this country and this important study highlights the value of healthy eating habits,” said NHLBI Acting Director Barbara Alving, M.D.
In the past thirty years, Americans have been eating more and more fast-food. “It’s extremely difficult to eat in a healthy way at a fast-food restaurant. Despite some of their recent healthful offerings, the menus still tend to include foods high in fat, sugar and calories and low in fiber and nutrients,” said lead author Mark Pereira, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota.
People need to take a hard look at how often they eat meals at fast-food restaurants and think about cutting back, according to Pereira.
One reason for the weight gain may be that a single meal from a fast food restaurant usually has enough calories to satisfy a person’s caloric requirement for an entire day.
Participants in the study were asked how often they ate breakfast, lunch or dinner at fast-food restaurants. Researchers found that the negative effects of weight gain and insulin resistance was seen in all participants who ate frequently at fast-food restaurants, even after considering other lifestyle habits.
Study participants included 3,031 young black and white adults who were between the ages of 18 and 30 in 1985-1986. The participants, who were part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, received dietary assessments over a 15-year period. CARDIA centers are located in Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Oakland, California.
“It is important to watch carefully what you eat, especially at a fast-food restaurant. Knowing the nutritional content is important. Consumers may want to ask for this information,” said NHLBI’s Gina Wei, M.D., project officer for CARDIA. Salads and grilled foods tend to be lower in fat than fried foods, she said.
Avoiding diabetes involves keeping portion sizes small, and ask that high-fat sauces and condiments, such as salad dressing and mayonnaise, be “on the side” and use them sparingly to reduce calories, Wei concluded.