By Nithin Sridhar
People across the world are rapidly moving away from the consumption of traditional food items and are moving towards fast food.
Fast foods are often processed foods that can be served very quickly. These fast foods are an integral part of the “Western diets” which are high on fats and oils.
A 2014 global study revealed that there is a global dietary transition owing to rising incomes and urbanization. People are abandoning consumption of their traditional foods and are adopting diets that are high in refined sugars, refined fats, oil and meats.
The study concludes that if these dietary trends are not countered and rectified, it could prove fatal to both environment and human health.
By 2050, the changing dietary patterns could become the main cause behind an estimated 80% increase in global emission of agricultural greenhouse gases.
On the health front, the dietary changes could lead to increased exposure to type II diabetes and coronary heart disease.
The situation in India is no better. According to this 2012 paper, the fast food industry is growing by 40% a year in India. It quotes a 2005 survey conducted by National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), that revealed that Delhi people spent an average of Rs 371 on processed foods and beverages per month. But they spent only Rs 290 on vegetables and a third of it on fruits. The total value of the junk foods consumed in 2003 was Rs 41,000 crores.
These facts should raise an alarm among people towards the growing dietary transitions that will prove harmful if not mitigated.
Fast foods are harmful to human health because they lack nutritional value. They lack in essential proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some foods have very high-calorie content but absolutely no essential nutrients.
Consumption of these unhealthy foods result in exposure to various diseases and medical conditions.
A 2013 study in UK found that those who ate fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, white bread and butter and cream doubled their risk of premature death or ill health in old age.
A recent study was carried on the diet intake of 926 men with non-metastatic prostate cancer. They completed diet questionnaires for a median of 5.1 years after diagnosis and they were further monitored for a median of another 9.9 years. It was found that people who followed western dietary pattern had significantly higher risk of dying from prostate as well as higher risk of dying from other causes. The people who consumed fruits, vegetables etc. in their diet, exhibited significantly lower risk of dying through prostate cancer or other causes.
Apart from this, high sugar intake may cause dental cavities and type II diabetes. The Kidneys may be affected due to excess salts. Excess fats and oils may lead to gastritis. High Cholesterol, Obesity, and increased blood pressure are other common conditions induced by excess fast food consumption.
Therefore, there is an immediate need to monitor our dietary patterns and reduce the consumption of fast and junk foods and replace it with healthier alternatives: home-made foods, fruits, and vegetables.