Obesity and Fast Foods

Before we discuss obesity and fast foods, let us have some definitions first.

o Obesity: A person is termed obese when his or her Body Mass Index exceeds 30
o Body Mass Index (BMI): A unit of measurement used to define the state of a person’s body weight. It is derived by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of his or her height in meters.

Underweight BMI = less than 20
Normal BMI = 20 to 24.9
Overweight BMI = 25 to 30
Obese BMI = greater than 30

o Fast food: there is no standard definition for it, but generally taken to mean foods that are prepared in very large quantities using standard kitchen utensils, following standardized recipes and repetitive preparation procedures and served rapidly in standard designed restaurants known as fast food restaurants. They usually advertise their services through electronic and print media and generally target children and young people. The rapid spread of such restaurants is usually made possible through the franchising system.

The key to good health through eating nutritious foods needs no explanation. As the saying “we are what we eat” goes, our physical well being is largely dependent on the type of foods we take. Cases of diet related diseases are well documented. They include the likes of diabetes, overweight, obesity, hypertension, heart diseases and certain types of cancer.

The link between obesity and fast foods has been well documented. It has been recognized that excessive consumption of fast foods is a leading cause of obesity due to the high content of fat, sugar and salt in fast foods. They are typically low in complex carbohydrates.

Another area of concern is that advertisements of fast foods are generally targeted towards children. Children, particularly the younger ones, are generally unable to discern through food and nutrition information. It is no coincidence that there are increasing incidences of the rise in obesity in the younger people.

Countries around the world are getting more and more alarmed at the rate of increase in obesity particularly in the younger people; they are well aware of the link between obesity and fast foods.

However, it is unfair to put the entire blame squarely on fast foods. Kids nowadays spent more time on computer games and television than their parents’ generation; they are less likely to part take in robust physical games.

Seeing the need to address the danger of the link between obesity and fast food, many countries around the world are taking action to enforce tighter control on television and print media advertisements, because the younger people are usually the targets of fast food companies.

Of particular concern is television advertising, an extremely influential and effect medium of advertisement for children. Among some of the restrictions adopted are:

o Prohibition of TV advertisements of fast foods during the airing of children’s programs
o Prohibition of TV sponsorship by fast food companies for children’s programs
o Prevention of misleading food information which may confuse consumers
o Fast food companies are prohibited from any form of advertisements that encourages excessive consumption
o Fast food companies are prohibited from promoting fast foods as healthy substitutes for a complete or balanced meal

The link between fast foods and obesity has prompted many governments to take affirmative action to prevent excessive consumption particularly by the younger people. It is a step in the right direction to reduce the overall burden of health care costs provided by governments around the world.