Given how many people have less time to cook their own meals, it's no surprise that eating in fast food restaurants is a popular option. In fact, a new study has proven that more than a third of children in the U.S. eat fast food regularly, but researchers have proven time and again that a constant fast food diet, especially those that are obviously fried and fatty, is detrimental to anyone's health in the long run. 

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), nearly two-thirds of the American adult population is overweight and has cited overeating as one of the major causes. One problem in most fast food restaurants is that their serving sizes, in terms of caloric value, can take up to more than half of a regular person's daily calorie requirements. Consuming too much calories and not burning enough, as in living a sedentary lifestyle, puts consumers at risk for obesity and its consequential conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure.

Aside from the excess calories, most regular fast food options like sodas and white bread contain too much starch and sugar that can increase risk for diabetes and insulin resistance. According to a study conducted by Mark Pereira and his team, people who ate at fast food restaurants for more than twice a week not only gained weight but also decreased insulin's effectiveness to break down sugar (insulin resistance). These detrimental effects remain despite adopting other healthier lifestyle changes. Most fast food products are also typically deep fried in high saturated fat oils, increasing risk for elevated cholesterol levels.

Strong evidence against fast food has prompted several establishments to offer healthier options, but researchers still caution consumers on becoming more knowledgeable in their food choices.

"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." Pereira said.

While home cooked healthy food laden with fruits and vegetables is still the better option, busy commuters and students who don't have the time to do so are advised to stick to smaller meal sizes or meal sharing, opt for low calorie dressings and condiments if possible and use high calorie sauces sparingly. It is important to watch carefully what you eat, especially at a fast-food restaurant. "Salads and grilled foods tend to be lower in fat than fried foods." said Dr. Gina Wei of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). "Knowing the nutritional content is important. Consumers may want to ask for this information."

Photo: Lord Jim | Flickr

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