Fast Food’ Effects on Children

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Introduction

This is a research paper on the effects of fast food on society, but specifically, more emphasis is put on the younger generation, the children. Nevertheless, what is fast food? The term fast food generally refers to food that can be prepared and served impromptu. It can be accessed from a take-out restaurant; it is considerably quicker to prepare, convenient to carry and consume, and it is relatively cheap compared to other food in a restaurant. In terms of its nutritive content, fast food is high in sodium components, calories, cholesterol, and fat. Examples of fast food include, but are not limited to: burgers like McDonald’s and Wendy’s sold in burger restaurants; sandwiches like Subway and Panera Bread sold in Soup and Sandwich shops; Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks sold in Coffee shops; pizzas like Pizza Hut and Dominos sold in Pizzerias; and many more that have risen with time (Centre for Young Women’s Health, 2011).

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This research paper will analyze, discuss, and state all the facts about fast food, including its history, and informatively draw relevant conclusions. It will answer the question n, whether fast food affects the younger generation’s health. Though some benefits can be associated with fast food, this research paper will equally demonstrate the greater risk involved in taking fast food and possible precautionary measures that can be put in place to curb these dire effects on children considering that they are the future of society. The research paper will accomplish this by following the outlined subtitles listed above.

History of Fast Food and its Growth

The concept of fast food and fast-food restaurants derives from the ancient Roman traditions where the idea of fast service and ready-cooked food existed for years. It was initially known as Quick Service Restaurant. Additionally, there were few restaurants that were selling hamburgers and eatables ever since pre-World War 1. White Castle was founded with a capital base of $700, and in 1921, it became one of the icons in burger restaurants in the US. It was the first company to sell a billion burgers. McDonald’s which was founded by the McDonald brothers in 1948, introduced a wide range of eatables that included, potato chips, hamburgers, soft drinks, French fries, milk, and coffee. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), on the other hand, was founded in 1930 and has established itself globally as it specializes in serving fried chicken.

However, the term fast food became more popular upon its recognition in the Merriam- Webster’s dictionary in 1951. With the development of urbanization, the trend and need for eating food outside a restaurant became inevitable as people tried to Maxie on the scarce resources available. It has from that time grown tremendously in quality, a number of fast-food clusters, and the definite number of fast-food restaurants. However, it was in 2006 that the global fast-food industry expanded in robust recording a 4.7 % growth, over 30,000 food outlets opened got established in 126 countries and 6 continents. The turnovers gained by these fast-food chain stores have made this industry a multi-billion-dollar business with MacDonald alone generating revenues approximated at $13 billion. Internationally, the most popular fast food shops are Domino’s, Arby’s, and the Pizza Hut (Buzzle 2011).

Coca-Cola, which is a soft drink company, opened its first operation outside the United States in 1906 by launching a bottling company in Cuba and expanding her countries, and by 1930, Coca-Cola had sixty-four bottlers in twenty-eight countries. By 1979, Coke was boasting of 430,000 vending machines throughout Japan, a number that has now grown to 870,000. Pepsi-Cola also began to venture into the international market, and by 1936 they had expanded to the United Kingdom and some other countries. Pepsi has furthermore acquired fast-food chains, while Coca-cola is linking with MacDonald’s selling Coca-Cola products.

Coca-Cola conspicuously has established itself as the world’s largest soft drink dispenser selling its products in almost 200 countries. As a result of this growth, there are currently more than 500,000 fast-food places in the world with children between the ages of 6 and 14 eating fast food 157,000,000 times every month. This has made MacDonald’s a world figure among children (Palo Alto Medical Foundation, 2011).

Benefits of Fast Food

The fact that fast food restaurants has nearly dominated the world restaurant industry, they must be intertwined to derive satisfaction and benefits. First, fast food is made from cheaper ingredients instead of nutritious food, and consequently, it is cheaper to buy. Fast food is highly accessible from take-out restaurants that also denote their convenience and finally save time on buying ingredients, preparing and cooking a meal (Frazier 2011). Fast-food restaurants sell tasty food. You do not have to queue or wait for a long time to get your food. Another benefit is that fast food has moderate nutrition, which is important for children health. Fast food is served warm at all times and hence enticing. It is also a fresh subject to its high turnover in the restaurants. Fast food is reliable in that you always get your flavor with no surprises. Conclusively, most fast food shops avail nutritional information to their customers (Glover 2011). However, the utmost benefits of fast food depend on what you choose to take at the restaurant as different fast food possesses various benefits.

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Effects of Fast Food on Children

Notwithstanding the above stated benefits of fast food, it is a fact that fast food is generally unhealthier in our bodies as compared to home-cooked food. Unfortunately, it has increasingly become part of children’s diet in the U.S. and the whole world at large. Although its effects run universally to everybody who consumes this food, our point of interest in this case will be the effect that the fast food has on children. According to the survey carried out in the U.S., children who consume fast food take up more fats, more total energy, more total carbohydrates, more added sugars, less milk, less fiber and fewer fruits and vegetables compared to those who do not consume fast food (Bowman & Pereira, 2011). This affects a dietary quality adversely and puts children at high risk for obesity.

The high-fat and cholesterol content in fast food also lead to heart problems like stroke and heart attacks. Children also become anemic due to lack of vitamins and iron supplements necessary for their growth. They also become tired easily. The minimal content of Green vegetables and fresh fruits leads to a deficiency of macro and micro nutrient supplements in children’s bodies, which consequently lowers their immunity and hence susceptibility to various diseases and ailments. The added preservatives and coloring agents used in fast food contribute significantly to cancer problems in children. If the high-sugar contents taken in fast food are not broken down they lead to diabetes. The tasty and large portions of fast food being served in fast-food restaurants contribute to overeating. And because this food contains more sugar due to the high preference placed on them by children, fast food has an overall effect of compromising the overall diet of children. Additionally, subject to the fiber and calories levels in fast food, it prevents children from gaining weight (Child Health, 2011).

Fast Food and Obesity in Children

Obesity is a health condition where a child weighs 20 % or more above-normal weight for their age and height (Lehrer 2011). Obesity is caused by poor diet, excessive alcohol intake, lack of exercise, and genetics. Obesity boosts the chances of getting diabetes, respiratory problems, coronary heart diseases and hypertension (Word Press, 2009). The increasing uptake of fast food results in more consumption of calories than the ability of body to burn calories. Since the biggest part of the fast food consumed by children has high calories and fat content, a link between obesity condition and fast food is established. A burger, for example, contains 670 calories and 39 gm fat (Kunz 2011). The problems that arise from obesity in children can be cured over time.

Childhood Obesity Statistics and Facts

According to a world survey by American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 34 % of adults in the U.S. are affected by obesity and almost 67 % of adults in the U.S. are obese or overweight. Obesity levels among the children in the U.S. range between 16 % and 33 %. It was also recorded in literature that as at 2006, 15 % of children between the ages of 6 and 11 were overweight. Additionally, 70 % of obese or overweight adolescents have a 70% chance to become obese in their adult life. This rate is, however, bound to rise to 80% if one or both parents of the child is or are obese or overweight. In a more detailed study, 70% of obese children with ages ranging from 5 to 17 years were shown to be at a risk of contracting cardiac diseases. Similarly, for 4-years children in the U.S., 20% of them were regarded as obese while in India 33 % of such children were obese. Generally, about 67 % of the American adults are either overweight or obese. These rising treads of people, especially children with obesity alone, have cost the U.S. government about $117 billion a year since 1987. Additionally, obesity-related diseases cost the American healthcare significant amounts of its revenue. This cost is equally distributed to the obese with them spending 36% more on health and 77 % more on medication compared to other health Americans. As a result of the effects of obesity, America loses about $ 3.9 billion of productivity by Americans aging from 17 to 64 years (Word Press 2009).

Health Effects of Fast Food

Fast food has dire health effects due to their nutritive content established earlier and their poor quality. Fast food affects physical, mental and sometimes psychological stature of human beings. Primarily, it causes mood swings, addiction and sexual dysfunction, which may take time to reverse. And hence doctors advise that fast food is not good to be taken regularly. Among the health effects caused by fast food are obesity in children, adolescents and adults of all races, religions and any gender. This has led to obesity epidemic and growth risks among the children. Fast food also causes high sodium content in our bodies with the prominent large-sized Big Mac meal containing 1330 mg of sodium per meal, which is a way above the recommended level of 150-240 mg per meal. This affects the blood components and subsequent the health status.

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It also causes Trans Fatty Acids, which are the worst kind of fats to be consumed as they contribute to diabetes, heart diseases, and stroke. These fats are generally used to deep fry fast food.

Fast food causes nutrient deficiency, since it is not balanced. It significantly lacks micro nutrients. There are minute contents of fruit or vegetable in the servings which leads to nutrient deficiency with excess consumption of the fast food. As a result, signs of tiredness are more frequent among those who are partakers of fast food. Children eating too much of fast food develop low immunity and hence are prone to get sick quite often. Soft drinks commonly taken with fast food deplete our calcium stores and the dire effect of this is menopausal problems in women. Fast food also causes low fiber content in the body as fast food lacks fiber. This leads to constipation and no weight gain. However, it controls cholesterol levels and thus reduces heart diseases. Generally, fast food causes addiction. This is due to its convenience and tasty nature. This, consequently, compromises the main meal and as such has health complications (Correct Weight Loss 2010).

Facts about Junk Food

Junk food is food that has high calories and low nutrients content. However, the definition might vary from one person to another. Nevertheless, most junk food fall between snacks food and fast food. Junk food is also readily available at chain stores and restaurants and may include sodas, cakes, French fries, shakes, biscuits, crisps burgers and chicken nuggets. It is nowadays served in large portions and has spread all over the world. Junk food seems to be taking over the place of normal meals and is generally overeaten subject to the high-sugar content and convenience. It is low in fiber, high in fat, more palatable and low satisfying value hence people do not feel full when they eat them and this leads to over consumption (Magee 2011). They deliberately target children and use children above two years of age in their adverts to increase their market. Sweetening, flavors and colorings used in junk food can cause asthma and hyperactivity. A lot of money is used by the American and U.K government to advertise junk food and most junk food outlets records almost 97 % profits.

Fast Food Problems

Problems arising from fast food are generally health problems. These problems are due to the nutritive nature of the fast food, and the trends adopted by those who consume them. Fast food has high proportions of certain nutrients and almost none of the most important food nutrients. For example, this food contains huge fractions of meat, sugars, fats and less fiber, milk, vegetables et cetera. These variances are not good for our health, which is why there is a need for a balanced diet. Hence, nutritional value is one of the fast food problems. Eating habits is another significant problem associated with fast food as more people prefer fast food to normal meals. It has also led to overeating, lack of weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases. Economically, governments have lost a lot of productivity and additional health costs in treating the fast food-related diseases like obesity (Buzzle 2011).

Fast Food as a Major Public Health Hazard

The fact that fast food is addictive is no longer in doubt. This addiction has altered hormonal balances and general nutrient contents in our blood. Additionally, some of the wrappings for fast food are not recyclable and hence pose a great health hazard.

Health practitioners have identified hormones like Leptin that regulate eating habits, which also help in maintaining a stable body weight. However, as the fat content increases in the body of a person, it has been shown that the brain is affected. With the growth of the fast-food industry, food poisoning incidents have also risen posing a health hazard. Animal husbandry has increased considerably to match the growing demand for raw materials for fast-food industry. Nevertheless, the waste from industrial livestock farms is a health hazard. These animals, as well spread diseases like Mad Cow Disease, which yield fatal human health consequences (Organic Consumers Association 2003).

Actions to be taken to Control the Effects of Fast Food

With the growing consumption of fast food, especially among the children and subsequent health hazards detailed in this research paper, it is logical enough to demonstrate concern and initiate steps that will control the effects of the fast food. The actions will considerably be pegged to the problems associated with fast food. One of them is the fact that the nutrient content of all fast food needs to be adjusted to suit the body requirements of children as they grow. Hamburgers with more protein, more fiber, lesser carbohydrates and low fats should be made in order to evade the health hazards posed by the current status quo. Additionally, individuals should take initiatives in developing proper eating habits not for purposes of just saving time and consuming tasty food but for their health concerns. Governments, at the same time, should regulate or provide circumstances ban on all fast food adverts in a bid to curtail their influence on children. The U.K. has already banned all adverts with children characters. Fast food industries should also be compelled to avail all the relevant information regarding nutritive content of a given type of fast food. However, since the responsibility of bringing up healthy children lies with the parents, parents should stay firm and make sure that their children are eating a balanced food. Physical exercises will also help in controlling the effects of fast food since excess fats and calories will be burnt in the process and thus maintaining normal health (Buzzle 2011).

Conclusion

It is quite clear that the fast-food industry has really grown with time, and its influence in the world is very eminent. People of all races, gender, and religions are consuming fast food in order to save time, eat tasty meals and satisfy their craving. The growth of the fast-food industry can be attributed to target advertising, the ready children market, its convenience, and the cheap prices of the fast food. It has some derived benefits and satisfaction. However, as people continue to consume fast food, they seem to have forgotten their adverse health risks, and, as a result, many children are suffering from obesity, diabetes and other fatal diseases. The resultant overeating, continued craving, tasty nature and being served in large portions alongside soft drinks, makes it hard for the children to move away from fast food. Though some steps have been initiated to curb the influence and the effects of fast food, more need to be done at the individual and government levels. We can informatively claim that fast food is not bad but should not be taken regularly because its frequent consumption is hazardous.

References

Bowman, A & Pereira, A. (2011). Effects of Fast-Food Consumption on Energy Intake and Diet Quality Among Children in a National Household Survey. Pediatrics Publications. Web.

Buzzle. (2011). Fast Food History. Buzzle Articles. Web.

Centre for Young Women’s Health. (2011). Fast Food Facts. Young Women’s Health. Web.

Child Health. (2011). Effects of Fast Food on Children. My Child Health. Web.

Correct Weight Loss. (2010). Fast Food Health Effects. Correct Weight Loss. Web.

Frazier, K. (2011). What are the benefits of fast food? Live Strong. Web.

Glover, J. (2011). What Are the Advantages of Fast Food Today? Ezine Articles. Web.

Kunz, M. (2011). Negative Impact of Fast Food on a Child’s Nutrition. Live Strong Articles. Web.

Lehrer, J. (2011). Fast Food Nation. Public Broadcasting Service. Web.

Magee, E. (2011). Junk-Food Facts. Web Medicine. Web.

Organic Consumers Association. (2003). Fast Food is a Major Public Health Hazard. Organic Consumers Association. Web.

Palo Alto Medical Foundation. (2011). Fast Food. Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Web.

WordPress. (2009). Child obesity, fast food obesity, child obesity causes. Child Obesity Cause Information. Web.

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