Nutritional quality at fast-food restaurants still needs improvement
New 14-year study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports
San Diego, CA, May 7, 2013 – More than 25 percent of American adults chow down on fast food two or more times each week. Known for menu items containing high amounts of fat, sugar, and salt, fast-food restaurants have contributed to America's poor diets and increased risk of diet-related chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. A new study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Healthy Eating Research program and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine presents results from a 14-year study indicating that fast food restaurant menus have only modestly increased nutritious offerings, and much improvement is still needed.
"Despite qualitative evidence that the fast-food industry is making improvements to the nutritional quality of at least some of their menu items, a quantitative evaluation of trends in the nutritional quality of fast food available in the marketplace was lacking," says lead investigator Mary Hearst, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Public Health at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. "This is the first study to quantitatively evaluate whether fast-food restaurant chains have improved the nutritional quality of their U.S. menu offerings over a period of time during which they have been encouraged to do so by governmental and nongovernmental agencies."
Hearst and the study team set out to examine trends at eight fast-food restaurants using data from 1997/1998 to 2009/2010 culled from the University of Minnesota Nutrition Coordinating Center Food and Nutrient Database, which houses menus from 22 fast-food restaurants. The investigators selected eight restaurants:
- Burger King
- Taco Bell
- Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
- Jack in the Box
- Dairy Queen