Fast Food Health Improvements Not In Line With Claims
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Research from the US has found that, despite campaigns to promote the healthier options now available at fast food outlets, the nutritional quality of offerings has improved only marginally in the past 14 years.
Using the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA’s) Healthy Eating Index, researchers from St. Catherine University in Minnesota analysed the nutritional quality of items from eight fast-food chains, from 1997-1998 to 2009-2010.
Although the Index score increased from 45 to 48 over the 14 years, thanks to nutritional improvements to meat, saturated fat, and calories from solid fats and added sugars, it still fell below the USDA’s guidelines – and beneath the 55 score of the ‘average American diet’.
Scores didn’t change for fruit and vegetable items, but milk and dairy and sodium ratings got worse.
Lead study investigator Mary Hearst, an associate professor of public health at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., said; ‘Given the role of fast food in Americans' diets, restaurants are in a unique position to help improve the diet quality in the U.S. by improving the nutritional quality of menu offerings. Modest improvements in average nutritional quality of menu offerings across eight fast-food restaurant chains were observed, which is consistent with both legislative efforts (e.g., banning trans fat) and the industry's own statements about creating healthier menu options. However, considering that fast food is ubiquitous in the US diet, there is much room for improvement’.
Commenting on the study, Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said; ‘This tiny increase [in the nutritional quality of fast food] is disappointing, and a bit surprising, given the many pronouncements by companies that they have added healthier menu options, switched to healthier cooking fats, are reducing sodium, and are touting other changes in company press releases and advertising.’
Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine
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