Fast food consumption has increased greatly among children in recent years. This has occurred in tandem with an increase in obesity.
In this study, doctors from the United States assessed whether overweight adolescents are more susceptible to the adverse effects of fast food than lean adolescents.
In study 1, the team fed participants an "extra large" fast food meal in a naturalistic setting.
The team instructed the participants to eat as much or little as they wished during this 1-hour meal.
|Overweight participants ate more than lean participants.|
|Journal of the American Medical Association|
In study 2, the doctors assessed energy intake under free-living conditions for 2 days when fast food was consumed, and for 2 days when it was not consumed.
There were 26 overweight and 28 lean participants aged between 13 and 17 years.
The team defined overweight as a body mass index exceeding sex- and age-specific 85th percentiles based on the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts.
The doctors measured energy intake determined by direct observation in study 1 and by unannounced 24-hour dietary recalls in study 2.
In study 1, mean (SEM) energy intake from the fast food meal among all participants was extremely large (1652  kcal), accounting for 61.6% (2.2%) of estimated daily energy requirements.
The team found that overweight participants ate more than lean participants whether energy was expressed in absolute terms or relative to estimated daily energy requirements.
They also found in study 2 that overweight participants consumed significantly more total energy on fast food days than non–fast food days. This effect was not observed in the lean participants.
Dr Cara Ebbeling and colleagues concluded, “In this study, adolescents overconsumed fast food regardless of body weight, although this phenomenon was especially pronounced in overweight participants”.
“Moreover, overweight adolescents were less likely to compensate for the energy in fast food, by adjusting energy intake throughout the day, than their lean counterparts”.