In the study, researchers weighed and measured the energy content of 223 popular meals served by 111 randomly selected sit-down restaurants and fast food outlets in Brazil, China, Finland, Ghana, and India.
The researchers found that 94 percent of the most popular main dishes served in sit-down restaurants and 72 percent of those purchased over the counter from fast food outlets contain more than 600 kilocalories (kcal) – the benchmark recommended by the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. to help reduce the global obesity epidemic. In particular, the researchers found that these meals provide between 70 percent and 120 percent of the daily energy needed by a sedentary woman – about 2,000 kcal – in most countries around the world except China. The energy content of the most popular meals in that country is significantly lower.
Vivian Suen, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo's Ribeirao Preto Medical School and a coauthor of the study, said that these findings suggest people are not only eating the wrong kinds of foods, they are overeating them.
"And in terms of calories, a meal considered healthy may often increase the organism's energy balance and hence add more weight than a fast food meal," Suen added.
In addition to obesity, fast foods also increase the risk of other diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cognitive impairment. Fast foods contain high amounts of cholesterol and salt – substances that contribute to the development of heart problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a direct link between sodium intake and elevated blood pressure. Most of the sodium Americans consume come from processed and restaurant foods. Eating foods high in salt and cholesterol can also cause atherosclerosis or plaque buildup in the arteries. This condition can lead to stroke, heart attack, and death.
Restaurant foods and drinks also contain lots of sugar. Regular consumption of foods that are high in sugar can negatively affect your blood sugar levels and elevate your risk of diabetes. (Related: Fast food diets causing majority of stroke and diabetes deaths across U.S..)
Eating junk food can also impair your cognitive function. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers reported that healthy people who consumed junk food for five days did poorly on cognitive tests that measured attention, speed, and mood. This may be due to the effect of foods high in sugar and fat – they suppress the activity of a brain peptide called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that plays a role in learning and memory formation. Foods high in calories also interfere with the healthy production and functioning of brain synapses responsible for learning and memory.
Start eating healthily today. Visit StopEatingPoison.com to learn about other foods you should avoid.