Well, I guess that you can see from the picture that I am not a big fan of fast foods, but it isn’t for the health reasons.
What the research says
I would like to refer you to the article by Lyle MacDonald titled “Hormonal Responses to a Fast Food Meal Compared with Nutritionally Comparable Meals of a Different Composition – A Research Review“
It is a review of existing research on the body’s response to fast food. This is just one example of such research.
The conclusion of the article is simple: The body’s hormonal response to the fast food meal was no different to the other meals.
I would add that this basically means that short term health impacts (in terms of body composition, etc) from eating fast food are no different from eating regular food.
When I say short term, I’m referring to a period anywhere from days to months and even years. Yes, that is the case.
The inference from this is that, you can just as easily eat fast food and lose fat, as long as some guidelines are followed.
What then is the Problem?
The main problem with fast food, is that it is calorically dense.
A simple comparison is to try and eat 10 apples vs trying to eat a Whopper. They contain the same number of calories, but the Whopper is far easier to eat.
Hence, people find it takes very little effort to overshoot their caloric requirements while eating fast food.
If total caloric intake is controlled however, I see no problem, at least in the short term.
My Issue with Fast Food
If fast food isn’t bad for body composition, why am I against it then?
I have basically 5 reasons.
First, fast food isn’t satisfying. This probably goes against the grain of what most people would feel, but I genuinely think that fast food just isn’t worth eating. I’d rather have a nice lean 400g steak than go for a big mac. The steak is arguably tastier, but is certainly more filling than the Big Mac.
Second, though the short term impact is nil, I don’t know about the long term impact. My question is, “What does 40 years or even 50 years of eating this reguarly do to the body”. This stems from the fact that though we can break down food into its macro and micro nutrients, we still don’t know every single component in food.
The example I like to quote is that the Inuit Eskimos eat a diet with lots of saturated fats and yet don’t get heart disease. The Chinese of the other hand eat a diet low in fat and rich in carbohydrates and also have relatively low rates of heart disease. That in India and the US is horrendous though. So what is at work? Frankly, even if we dissect every bit of food we eat and calculate the precise macro and micro nutrients in it, we still do not know how these substances affect the body collectively and in the ratios presented to us in food. This is a highly debatable and fuzzy subject.
Third, fast food is expensive. Well at least for me, since I live near a fresh food market (10 minutes walk). Enough said.
Fourth, I have no need for the convenience. As a student who lives 5 minutes from school, my commuting time is virtually zero and being fond of cooking, I like to eat what I make for myself. For someone constantly on the run, this would be very different.
Last, I’d rather ‘spend’ my calories on Great and not just good food. This is a matter of personal principles. I am quite a harsh food critic, and view fast food to be garbage in terms of steak. I wold rather walk down to a fancy restaurant and pay $80 for a piece of steak that I know will be great and remember the meal for a long time to come. Frankly, give me the best or give me nothing at all!
As you can see, almost all of my 5 reasons to avoid fast food stem from my personal beliefs and attitudes towards food, and not from the concern for my health. (Except maybe the 2nd reason)
Anecdotal evidence from various people support the fact that you can be ultra lean and eat fast food like crazy. (Usain Bolt snacks on chicken nuggets before a race)
For those who regularly eat fast food, I have nothing against you. Sometimes it really is a case whereby the convenience of it all trumps all else.
Until more evidence comes up, I have to admit that eating so called “junk” cannot be seen to really affect ones health.
However, I will mention that some people have certain intolerances or allergies to various food groups. Some people for example find that their faces get puffy due to water retention after consuming too much salt (present in copious amounts in fast food). For serious conditions involve things like lactose intolerance and allergies. This is of course a whole new issue worthy of another discussion.
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