In a new study, researchers found although some healthy items are added to menus, fast food is even more unhealthy for you than it was 30 years ago.
It shows that fast-food entrees, sides, and desserts increased in calories and sodium and that entrees and desserts increased in portion size over time.
The research was conducted by a team from Boston University.
Previous studies have shown that in the U.S., about 37% of adults older than 20 years eat fast foods on any given day. The ratio increases to 45% for adults aged 20-39.
Usually, one fast food meal with an entree and side provides about 767 kcals, or 40% t of a 2,000-calorie a day diet.
In the current study, the team examined changes in energy, portion size, energy, salt, iron, and calcium in entrees, sides, and desserts offered by 10 most popular US fast-food restaurants in 1986, 1991, and 2016.
They found the variety of entree, sides, and dessert options soared by 226%. However, new items tended to be less healthy than those available throughout the study period.
The calories, portion sizes, and sodium content overall have increased over time and remain very high.
One good change in fast food is that iron and calcium increased in menu items. These nutrients are important for bone health and preventing anemia.
But the researchers suggest that there are better sources of iron and calcium that do not come with high calories and sodium.
The study findings offer insights on how fast food may contribute to the public health problem of obesity and related chronic conditions in the United States.
The team suggests that the food environment in the U.S. is likely part of the reason for the increase in obesity and chronic diseases over the past 30 years.
It is important to increase people’s awareness and help develop solutions. It is important to help people eat fewer calories and sodium at fast-food restaurants.
Maybe displaying calories on restaurant menus is a good start. Offering smaller portions may be another.
The lead author of the study is Megan A. McCrory, Ph.D. from Boston University.
The findings are published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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