Posted on Mar 15, 2019, 4 p.m.
International investigation of popular meals in full service restaurants and fast food restaurants in 5 countries has revealed a large number of high caloric options in over sized portions which may be helping to drive the global obesity epidemic, as published in The BMJ.
An international study has found that those high calorie large portion sized meals in restaurants is not a problem unique to the USA, researchers have found 94% of full services meals and 72% of fast food meals which were studied from 5 countries contained 600 calories more. Fast food restaurant meals were found to contain 33% less calories than meals from full services restaurants, which suggests that fast food chains should not be singled out when exploring ways to address globesity and overeating.
Calorie content was measured from the most frequently ordered meals from 111 randomly selected full/fast restaurant in China, Brazil, Ghana, India, and Finland, as well as 5 worksite canteens in Finland where they are more common and often subsidized options to support employee health; after which data was compared with comparable information for similar restaurants within the USA.
When compared to USA data the mean restaurant calorie counter was only lower in China at 719 vs 1088 calories/meal; on average fast food meals contained fewer calories than full service meals at 809 vs 1317 calories/meal; worksite canteens in Finland contained 25% fewer calories than fast/full restaurants at 880 vs 1166 calories/meal; 94% of meals from full service and 72% in fast food meals across all countries contained 600 calories more; and 3% of meals from full service restaurants in 4 countries contained 2000 calories more.
Over the past 40 years globesity has nearly tripled according to W.H.O; identifying factors that may lead to overeating such as eating practices and environmental factors may help to develop effective interventions. Research on portion sizing while dining out suggests public health recommendations to reduce restaurant servings to 600 calories may be a toll for reducing weight gain and the prevalence of obesity around the globe.
The study was limited by samplings being only entrees and did not include beverages, appetizers, and desserts that can be consumed with meals, which means the measurements likely underestimated how large fast/full services restaurant meals really are. Most of the reference USA data was collected 3 years before data for other countries; size of meals ordered and collected was assumed to be the same as those supplied to diners inside the restaurants; and samples were collected in a single urban center within each country.
Fast food is often cited as an easy target for diet change due to its high caloric content, however research has shown that full service restaurant meals in general as just as important to target for interventions to address obesity as dining out is now common around the globe, and it is important to keep in mind overeating is easy when portion sizes are over sized.
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