Food Choices and Health Indicators
By Rosalie Marion
Bliss February 3, 2009
Many adults live life in the fast lane, and when the need for speed
extends to mealtimes, they often reach for fast foods. A study by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Sebastian shows that among U.S. men and women aged 31 to 50, obtaining a
greater proportion of total calories from conventional fast-food restaurants
was associated with a higher BMI, or body mass index. BMI is a ratio of weight
to height that is used to gauge body fat in adults.
Sebastian is with the ARS
Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md. ARS is the principal
intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of
Sebastian and colleagues analyzed the eating habits of more than 2,000
volunteers aged 19 to 50. The analysis was based on responses collected from
two 24-hour food intake questionnaires during the national food intake survey,
"What We Eat In
America," a component of the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey, better known as NHANES.
In NHANES and this study, fast foods were defined as all foods that
survey respondents said they obtained from fast-food and pizza establishments,
without waiters/waitresses, including carryout, delivery and drive-through
service. Total calorie intake and the percentage of calories derived from
fast-food sources were calculated for survey respondents, who were selected to
be representative of the U.S. population.
The significant relationship between BMI and fast-food intake found
among the 31- to 50-year age group was not found among the 894 volunteers who
were in the 19- to 30-year age group.
The researchers also found that the survey respondents who obtained a
larger percentage of their calories from fast foods consumed higher levels of
discretionary calories overall. For an in-depth definition of discretionary
calories, go to MyPyramid.gov at:
The percentage of U.S. adults who met current MyPyramid food group
recommendations was low, regardless of whether or not they reported consuming
fast foods. The researchers concluded that strategies to help people meet
recommendations must take into account the types of foods and beverages
obtained from all sources, not just from fast-food establishments.