Fast foods in the US are said to have originated from Southern California and later spread to other areas of the United States. The popularity of fast foods has brought many changes in the US particularly in agriculture, health, economy, and employment practices. Apart from restaurants, fast foods are served in many areas within the US such as gas stations, schools, trains, stadiums, and airplanes. The fast-food industry has grown exponentially in the US over the years as studies have shown that at least one in every four Americans makes a visit to fast food joints in a day. Many individuals prefer fast foods due to their affordability and taste. Fast foods are mainly consumed in the urban areas and low-income neighborhoods within the United States as studies have indicated that persons from geographically and socio-economic disadvantaged regions have a more access to convenient stores and fast food joints than joints that sell healthy foods. For instance, studies carried out in the rural areas of Texas found out that about 59% fast food joints serve these meals to the communities living in these areas (Freeman 2222). The fast-food industry provides consumers with meals that are quickly prepared and served. These foods provide a quick alternative to home-prepared meals. These foods, however, are of low nutritional value when compared to other meals. They are characterized by high levels of sugars, salts, saturated fats, and calories. For instance, the energy density of most fast foods is stated to be about 1100kj/100g which is more than twice that of the recommended amount (Mandal 1). Some examples of fast foods include burgers, hot-dogs, nachos, tacos, French fries, and non-vegetarian and vegetarian wraps. The characteristics of fast foods which make them harmful to the health of individuals and damaging to communities has been of great concern over the years with different people advocating for a decrease in the consumption of these foods among individuals so as to improve the quality of life and reduce the mortality rate (Foods Empowerment Projects 1). This paper is a discussion on how the fast foods industry harms communities particularly on its effects on their health and the damaging effects it has on citizens.
The high consumption of fast foods causes obesity among different groups of people. Research has shown that obesity is mainly caused by the intake of foodstuffs that are high in calories and the failure of one to engage in adequate exercises ( Mandal 1). Fast foods are known to be a key cause of obesity among individuals in a community due to the high levels of fats, calories, and sugars contained in some of these foods. Obesity is one of the causes of premature death, chronic illness, and other adverse health conditions. Obesity is also known to be one of the risk factors of deadliest medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure because it increases the levels of bad cholesterol in the body (Foods Empowerment Projects 1). The increased number of fast food outlets in certain neighborhoods has been found to be the main cause of obesity among these communities as the joints increase the population intake of fast foods. For example, it has been found that when fast foods outlets are located about 0.10 miles from schools, children have higher chances of developing obesity by about 5.2%. The retail food environmental index has also shown the correlation between the number of fast foods located in a given area and levels of individuals with obesity ( Richardson et al. 1-2). Also, persons who live in an environment with a few health retail outlets are more likely to eat foods that are energy dense leading to a propensity of being affected by obesity. For instance, the lack of accessibility of healthy foods among the African Americans and Latinos in the United States is said to be a major cause of increased levels of people who suffer from obesity as individuals opt for fast food restaurants that are easily accessible thus cutting the cost of food particularly the travel costs (Laxy et al. 2).
Additionally, fast foods lead to severe health effects among persons who consume them heavily. These foods contain high levels of carbohydrates, unhealthy sugars, salt, and fats. When these foods are consumed in large amounts, they replace the intake of healthy foods leading to the cause of different diseases among people. Fast foods are some of the primary causes of chronic diseases which are the core causes of death and morbidity among certain populations (The Food Monitoring Group 1-3). High levels of salts that are found in fast foods have been stated to be a key cause of diseases such as stroke and kidney failure. Other diseases that are associated with fast foods include diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases (The Heart Link Project 1). Studies have shown that 1 out of 3 children of communities of color born from the year 2000 is more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes due to a poor diet which is mainly characterized by intake diets which have low nutritional value. Diabetes 2 originates from physical inactivity and heavy body weight which result from the constant eating of fast foods which cause insulin resistance (Corporate Accountability International 1). High blood pressure among some individuals has been attributed to the consumption of high levels of sodium that is contained in fast foods that make them more appetizing. High levels of sodium have been found to aggravate high blood pressure among different persons as it increases sodium levels in the blood thus affecting the absorption of water by the kidneys. The extra fluid in the blood vessels leads to an increase in blood pressure. Of significance importance, overconsumption of high levels of salts found in fast foods may alter ones preference leading to increased intake of sodium thus increasing the probability of hypertension-related diseases ( Kim & Leet 475). On cardiovascular diseases, the higher saturated fats that are found in fast food increase cholesterol levels in the blood leading to the clogging of arteries. Research has shown that areas where there are many fast food joints, the population is 2.62 more likely to develop coronary diseases as compared to regions with a few of these outlets. Besides, people living in areas with many fast foods outlets have almost equal chances to succumb to coronary illness. Moreover, research has found out that children who consume fast foods often more likely to have an increased risk of eczema, arthritis, and asthma. Apart from harm that it causes to consumers health, foods cause addiction to some people in the society. These foods have been found to stimulate the same part of the brain that stimulated by drugs like cocaine and heroin and thus causes a dependence syndrome (Foods Empowerment Projects 1). Some people who are used to this kind of diet are more likely to suffer from withdrawal symptoms whenever they try to stop the consumption of these foods. Similarly, once people become used to fast foods, it becomes hard for them to change their diets, as food patterns are said to be cultural. Children who are raised in families where there is high consumption of fast foods are also more likely to continue with these eating habits even in adulthood (The Heart Link Project1). Furthermore, tooth decay has also been associated with high consumption of these foods due to the high concentration of starch and sugars. The bacteria convert the sugars into acids thus leading to tooth decay among different persons (The Food Monitoring Group 560).
Of significance importance, fast foods have led to health disparities among different communities in the US. Food access across socio-economic status, race, and ethnicity have been found to be a contributing factor to health disparities. The food systems adopted by a given population has been associated with the causes of health disparities among these communities (Freeman 2213-2214). Additionally, food supply among different communities may contribute to poor diet, particularly where there is a low supply of healthy foods which influences the consumption patterns of these communities The environment in can promote a healthy lifestyle or lead to the adoption of unhealthy behaviors that cause chronic health problems. The environment in which some communities live has been found to have a significant impact on the health of the population ( Laxy et al. 5-10). Institutionalized segregation has made low-income neighborhoods be dominated by the African-Americans and the Latino population. Most low-income areas in the US have been found to have more fast foods than healthy food outlets. The fast food joints are said to be dominant in these areas and are twice as many as opposed to communities that are dominated by the white population. Many fast foods that are present in these areas deny these communities an opportunity of consuming adequate whole grains, vegetables, and fruits making their diets be characterized by processed foods, sugars, fats, and refined grains (Freeman 2215) . Besides, fast foods have always been stated to have a significant appeal to people from low socioeconomic status (Laxy et al 7). Moreover, the social and economic factors among this population leave these communities with few options in selecting the foods that they consume. These communities mostly frequent fast food outlets that serve foods that are nutritionally deficient causing many deaths and diseases that emanate from these unhealthy foods. Many people living in these areas suffer from high rates of strokes, cancer, heart diseases, and diabetes. For instance, African Americans have 30% and 40% high death rates of cancer and heart diseases respectively compared to the whites (Freeman 2229). This factor compounded by availability and quality of healthcare make these populations suffer from nutritional-related diseases which become hard to combat. The other barriers that are found in the environment in which these communities live which also hinder their access to health services also violate the fair treatment principle (Hilmers et al. 1644).
Besides, fast foods have changed the appearance of many of the American streets and highways from sources of healthy to unhealthy meal. Studies have indicated that there is a greater association between the access of healthy foods and its consumption. The accessibility of supermarkets and the stocking of healthy foods in community stores is likely to influence the food patterns of people living in a certain region. People who live in areas that lack healthy food outlets are more likely to engage in unhealthier diets. Areas with increased access to supermarkets have shown to have lower rates of diabetes and other food related diseases ( Laxy et al. 1-3). Fast foods have pushed outlets that sell healthy foods away from low-income regions to meet the demands of the people. Supermarkets that mostly sell healthy foods have been forced to relocate to affluent and more spacious areas which cannot be easily accessed by persons from a lower socio-economic status due to transportation costs which increase the costs of the healthy foods. These areas are characterized by higher income and high-density residential space making them ideal for the location of their businesses as opposed to the other areas which have less space. Research has also shown that food outlets that sell healthier foods are mostly located in wealthier areas and those selling fast foods in areas of low socio-economic status (Andrea et al. 543-550). The location of the healthy food outlets in distant areas makes acquisition of these foods be tedious and expensive in terms of traveling and travel costs. The few healthy food outlets available also charge higher prices on these products forcing many individuals living in these areas to prefe...
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