We live in a fast food nation. Nearly everywhere you travel, you can find fast food restaurants full of convenient, but unhealthy food choices. Some options are better than others. And some people argue that you can find healthy-ish alternatives at fast food places. But, for the most part, these places should be avoided.
A recent study conducted by the the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand and the European Society of Cardiology found a link to the number of fast food places in a town and its rate of heart attacks. They say that areas with more fast food restaurants saw people with more heart attacks. Now, this could be coincidence. But probably not.
Why would the risk of heart attacks go up when there are more fast food places in a town? Fast food is convenient and relatively inexpensive. It's not the best option. But for some, it's the quickest and cheapest option.
Fast food restaurants aren't known for their quality ingredients. The majority of what one can purchase at a fast food restaurant has been shown to have poor nutritional value, high sodium content, and high trans fat content. Fast food chains aren't going out of their way to assure they use the most nutritious ingredients. Fries are fried in rancid vegetable or grain oils. Burgers come from conventional feed lot cattle. The vegetables used at fast food restaurants are conventional and are likely sprayed with pesticides to keep pests at bay. All of these things contribute to inflammation in the body. And inflammation in the body leads to poor metabolic health, which in turn leads to increased heart attack risk.
Fast food restaurants are more common in impoverished areas. And people in poverty are more at risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular events because of this. Some good things came out of this study. First, urban planners can be aware of this risk and not include so many fast food choices in impoverished areas. Another positive thing to come out of this is increased awareness for the need of education around the risks of eating fast food on a daily basis. Ultimately it is the individual's responsibility to make good choices around food that will lower the risk of cardiovascular disease instead of increase it. Educating people about what choices to make is one way to improve this situation. Some people say that it would even help to train fast food staff to help their consumers make better choices as well.
The real lesson here is to avoid low quality fast food as much as possible. However, this is not always an option for some. There are areas in our country where fast food is king and other options don't exist. These places are referred to as 'food deserts', which are areas in which the local population doesn't have easy access to fresh and healthful food choices. Thankfully there are companies trying to help with this. I really like the mission of Thrive Market. They ship healthier food options, including humanely raised meat, to these areas. And they even give free memberships to people in need. This is just one alternative out of many available to these areas so that they can cut back on fast food consumption and focus on healthier options.