Nutrition 101 Series – # 2

Fast Food Industry

Sadly, 60% of adult Americans are overweight.  Even more distressing, in the last 20 to 25 years youth obesity in children and adolescents has doubled. This weight gain has linked to countless health problems later in life such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, and many other problems. If current trends continue, 1 out of every 3 children born in the year 2000, will develop diabetes in their lifetime. Diabetes will cut 17-27 years off your life.

I want to clarify that I am not for regulation. I am for the freedom to choose. With that said, the World Health Organization has declared obesity a global epidemic and that eating fast food may be dangerous to your health.

fast food playgroundIt is not my intent to alarm, or scare people into not eating fast food. Although I discourage it, I do not believe low amounts will be harmful. However, I strongly believe that it certainly will not help you or benefit you in any way. It is strictly a temporary satisfaction with no benefits other than to gratify any craving you may have had. It is my intent to alert and raise awareness to what the fast food industry, and fast food represents.

I understand that time constraints sometimes dictate that a “drive thru” is necessary. Been there, done that. I also understand the genius marketing of playgrounds, toys with a meal, and the “experience” that kids associate with fast food joints. With that said, here is a reminder about fast food and the fast food industry.

It’s not going anywhere!

According to National Restaurant Association forecasts, fast-food restaurant sales are expected to rise 4.9% from last year to $188.1 billion in 2013. Of all the restaurant visits in the U.S., fast-food outlets account for 78% of the total. McDonald’s alone had sales over $88 billion last year, with averages to almost $2.6 million of sales per location.

There are over 160,000 fast-food restaurants in America serving 50 million people daily. 72% of Americans eat at a fast-food restaurant at least once per week. Americans eat out 40% of our meals! There is a reason that fast-food is a huge part of our economy and surrounds us everywhere. There is also a  reason that our society  is the most obese country in the world.

How Bad Is It?fast food - education

In the documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock  agreed to eat McDonalds three meals a day, for 30 days straight. He was monitored by doctors prior, during, and after the experiment. He was not allowed to eat anything else, and had to eat everything on the menu. He charted everything that he ate.

Before I try to explain what fast-food is, and the health risks associated, how about I just let McDonald’s tell you. In 2002, two obese teenage girls sued the fast-food chain blaming them for their obesity and illnesses. The judge stated that if lawyers for the teens could prove that McD’s intends for people to eat its food every meal of every day, and that doing so would be unreasonably dangerous, they may be able to state a claim.

What was McD’s response, or rebuttal? No denial that eating large quantities of their food was dangerous, but that it was well-known, or common knowledge, that everybody knew the dangers associated with its food. They stated in their defense, “it is also a matter of common knowledge that any processing that its foods undergo serve to make them more harmful than unprocessed foods.”  In the end,  the judge denied the lawsuit claiming that the plaintiffs failed to show that eating McDonalds food was what caused their injuries.

So let’s talk about the “food” that is in fast-food, and then I’ll let you decide if you want to call it food. Fast-food chains serve mass-produced foods, many of which contain abundant calories, saturated fats, and sodium. Remember, fast-food was put together somewhere—who knows where—processed and packaged to not spoil, shipped to its location, then re-heated. Put a real piece of food on your counter and watch how long it lasts.

70% of processed foods have some genetically modified ingredient, which is basically the altering of the organisms in a way that does not occur naturally. Let’s just look at our favorite Chicken McNuggets. Sorry if this ruins them for you.

The chicken is made from factory farmed chickens typically treated with vaccines and hormones while being fed conventional feed products that are medicated with pharmaceuticals and grown with pesticides. The heads are chopped off, and the entire body is thrown into a grinder, feces in all. They are then combined with all sorts of stabilizers and preservatives, pressed into familiar shapes, breaded deep fried, freeze dried, and then shipped.

super size me

Comprised 56% of corn, these little morsels include 38 different ingredients to include: sodium phosphates; bleached wheat flour (nutrients removed); food starch-modified (likely genetically-modified); dextrose sugar). They also contain hydrogenated oils which contain trans fats, the artificially produced fats that are unusable by the body and that studies have linked to a number of detrimental health problems. A chemical called dimethylpolyiloxane is used to keep frying oil from foaming. It is a type of silicone used in caulks and sealants, as a filler for breast implants, and as the key ingredient in Silly Putty.

That is just to name a few and trust me, their consumption adds no value. In fact, they add harm. Another ingredient in a nugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ. It is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to “help preserve freshness. It’s a petroleum derivative, used as a stabilizer in perfumes, resins, varnishes and oil field chemicals. According to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food.

This is difficult to believe, and I can understand skepticism. But these ingredients come directly from the product, and the definition of them is what it is. Like McDonald’s says, it’s common knowledge that this stuff is bad for your health.

“Every mouthful of McDonalds meal contains a handful of chemicals that raise ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, increase diabetes risk, lower immunity, and damage DNA.” —

The Results of the Super Size Experiment:

I acknowledge that this experiment was extreme. I doubt anyone is going to eat nothing but fast food for a month straight. But these results are from 30 days. Imagine what years of eating fast food can do. Combined with not getting the vital nutrients and vitamins from healthy eating, we have an epidemic.

Morgan Spurlock was considered an above average fitness level for his age group prior to his experiment. At day 21, he felt heart palpitations that convinced him to seek medical help. In the end, this was the result:

  • Gained 24.5 lbs.obesity-statistics
  • Body fat gain from 11% to 18%
  • Cholesterol shot up 65 points
  • His liver turned to fat
  • Doubled his risk for coronary heart disease
  • Felt depressed and exhausted most of the time
  • Big mood swings and lost his sex-drive
  • Massive cravings, & massive headaches

Spurlock went through all kinds of physical and physiological stages throughout the spree to include: tingling, sweats, vomiting, vibrating, nausea, headaches, strung out, loss of energy, and frequent “crashes.” One of the comments made is that he noticed after a short time of eating that he would feel hungry for more.

Also intriguing is around the 20-day mark, Spurlock claimed that he actually felt a “rush, feeling 100% better” immediately after eating. In turn, he would feel completely horrible when he was not eating. According to his doctor, this was due to him being physically addicted to the food.

According to Dr. Barnard, mentioned in the previous article, ingredients used often in fast-food contain addicting components: opiates found in certain foods, sugar,  and caffeine. For a 12 year old, their brain is no match for that kind of combination. Whether or not the fast-food industry purposely overuses addicting components in their food, they do use them. There is no disputing that, and there is no disputing that they are addicting.

Part of the experimentFastFoodAds was to eat everything on the menu a certain amount of times. So he must have eaten some of the “healthy” items. Well, at the time of the documentary there were only 7 items on the McDonald’s menu that contained no sugar whatsoever, including the salads.  A premium salad loaded up has 51 grams of fat and more calories than a Big Mac. So don’t be fooled by the “healthy” menu.

At the end of the month, Spurlock had consumed 30 pounds of sugar, one pound per day, as well as a total of 12 pounds of fat. It took him 8 weeks of a vegan diet to get his cholesterol down to normal, and 5 months to lose 20 pounds – another 9 months to lose the last 4.5 pounds. Point being, it can take a long time to undo some of the damage we create.

Fast-food has made efforts to provide “healthy” menu options, and to some extent it has become better. But personally, I have a hard time accepting something as healthy that is preserved and packaged on ice, then shipped across the country until prepared.

The bottom line is fast-food is not healthy, individually or for our society. Look at the numbers. High rates of obesity and illness, with high rates of fast-food consumption. The portion sizes are still absurd, and filled with sugar, fat, and other addicting components. It will not benefit you.

Fast Food & Performance

“Fast foods are junk food, high in fat, sodium and sugar, which can lead to obesity and a range of attendant health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. Basically, it can damange your liver and your heart. The high levels of sugar puts your metabolism under stress; when you eat refined sugar, your pancreas secretes high amounts of insulin to prevent a dangerous spike in blood sugar levels. See next article for what it does to your hormones.

Fast-food contributes to poor physical and mental performance. It doesn’t contain the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. As a result, you may feel chronically fatigued and lack the energy you need to complete daily tasks. Because fast food and junk food don’t contain adequate amounts of protein and good carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels will drop suddenly after eating, leaving you feeling grumpy, fatigued, and craving sugar leading to wanting more junk food

In the short term, high levels of dietary fat lead to poor cognitive performance. You’ll feel tired and have trouble concentrating because your body might not be getting enough oxygen. It can lead to mood swings and constipation, and lower your energy levels so that you lack interest in the exercise you need to burn off those extra calories.

Like mentioned earlier, most fast-food has no benefit. In the last article of this series I will discuss alternatives and options for fast-food.  Yes, there are options! There are consequences to our actions and our choices, and consuming certain fast-foods may have negative ones. Again, the more knowledge we have, the more power we have to make the right decisions.[spacer size=”20″] [spacer size=”10″]

Nutrition 101 Series

1  What's Out There?
2  Fast Food Industry
3  Hormones & Energy Levels
4  What Not to Eat
5  What to Eat

6  Important Points
7  Optimal Eating Blueprint
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Supplement Series

1  To Take or Not to Take
2  Best Supplements for Athletic Performance
3  My Supplement Recommendations
4  Supplement Products That I Use and Recommend

Nutrient Timing for Optimal Performance
Post-Workout Supplementation