Fast Food Fanciers

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America pioneered the fast-food industry that is a major part of the nation's economic engine. "In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers ... or new cars ... A generation ago, three-quarters of the money used to buy food in the United States was spent to prepare meals at home. Today about half of the money used to buy food is spent at restaurants—mainly at fast food restaurants" (Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, 2001, pp. 3-4). In recent years much of the world has emulated American culture in its craving for fast food. "Between 1984 and 1993, the number of fast food restaurants in Great Britain roughly doubled—and so did the obesity rate among adults. The British now eat more fast food than any other nationality in Western Europe" (p. 242). Asian nations also have succumbed to the invasion. "The arrival of McDonald's in 1971 accelerated the shift in Japanese eating habits. During the 1980's, the sale of fast food in Japan more than doubled" (ibid.). People are drawn to fast food for several reasons. It tastes good, and it's quickly served—the latter especially important considering the frantic pace of the lives of many people. Fast food also seems predictable and safe in that one can expect the same quality and taste wherever that brand of fast food is sold. But is it good for us? One doctor who specializes in nutrition described the "worst diet in the world." It would be rich in calories, he said, and contain lots of saturated and hydrogenated fat, be high in sodium and, for meat, contain mostly beef and poultry, commercially grown, injected with an abundance of drugs and hormones. The diet also would minimize fruits and vegetables. The doctor then wrote: "I would like you to visit three different fast-food restaurants of your choice, study the menus in them, and observe what the customers are eating. Then I want you to think about how closely those menus approximate the Worst Diet in the World we have just designed" (Andrew Weil, M.D., Eating Well for Optimum Health, 2000, p. 150). If your food consumption includes large amounts of fast food, you would be wise to cut back. There are times—when we're in a hurry—when dining at fast-food outlets is convenient. If you limit your use of fast food to those rare or special occasions, you will do your body a great favor. GN

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