Fast Food and TV a Bad Mix
Together, they add up to a hazardous habit
WebMD News Archive
March 10, 2003 -- Picking up a burger and fries to eat while watching the
big game or a favorite TV show may be a hazardous habit for many Americans. A
study shows eating fast food along with a steady diet of watching television
can prove to be a lethal combination, increasing the risks for both obesity and
Researchers say fast food consumption has grown dramatically in recent
years, but the link between eating fast food and the prevalence of obesity and
other factors related to the risk of diabetes has not been thoroughly
The study found that eating fast food more than twice a week doubled the
risk for glucose intolerance and produced a 50% increase in obesity.
Glucose intolerance occurs when the body can no longer efficiently convert
sugar into energy. Both obesity and glucose intolerance are major risk factors
for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In the study, researchers followed 2,027 white and 1,726 black adults for 15
years and interviewed them about their dining and lifestyle habits as well as
evaluated their physical health. The participants were considered obese if
their body mass index (BMI, a measurement of weight relative to height) was 30
or higher, or if their waistline was more than 39 inches for men or 35 inches
They found that the eating fast food and watching TV acted independently to
increase the risk of obesity and glucose intolerance, but two factors proved to
be an especially dangerous combination among whites specifically.
Whites who visited fast food restaurants more than twice a week and watched
more than three hours of television per week were three times as likely to have
abnormal glucose control compared to those who ate fast food less than once a
week or watched less than an hour of television per week.
After adjusting for other factors associated with health risk, such as
social and economic status, smoking, alcohol use, and physical activity,
researchers found this link between fast food consumption and obesity and
glucose intolerance was still significant in whites but not in blacks.
Although the study found blacks ate fast food blacks more often than whites
(an average of twice a week vs. 1.6 times per week for whites), researchers say
the lack of an association may be due to other dietary habits found among
blacks that were not assessed in the study, and these factors need to be
examined in future studies.
Researchers say that frequent dining on fast food may have an overall
negative effect on the quality of a person's diet, therefore increasing the
risk of obesity and other health problems.
"When you eat fast foods, you eat fewer fresh fruits and vegetables,
fewer whole grains, and fewer reduced-fat dairy products and fiber," says
researcher Mark Pereira, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard
Medical School, in a news release. "The actual meal didn't seem to matter
-- hamburgers, fries, breakfast sandwiches, chicken sandwiches and nuggets --
they were all associated with an increased risk."
Periera presented the results of the study recently at the American Heart
Association's 43rd Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and
Prevention, in Miami, Fla.