FAST FOOD ADDICTION IN TEENAGERS AND ITS IMPLICATIONS ON PSYCHOSOCIAL HEALTH

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fast food

Food addiction studies have concentrated on easily palatable foods. Although fast foods fall directly into that category, it has several other characteristics that can enhance its salience. This study investigates whether the nutrients in fast food, the characteristics of fast-food consumers, or the presentation and packaging of fast food can induce drug dependence, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association.

Limited evidence indicates that fast food’s high fat and salt content can increase its addictive potential. In poorer neighbourhoods, fast food restaurants cluster and obese adults eat more fast foods than those who are of average weight. Resistance to insulin, lepton and other hormonal signals that normally regulate appetite and restrict reward is characterised by obesity. In obese subjects, neuroimaging studies provide evidence of altered rewards and tolerance. When obese, many individuals follow psychological dependency requirements. Stress and dieting will make a person vulnerable to compensation. Finally, ads for fast food, restaurants and menus all have environmental indicators that may induce addictive overeating. Although the principle of fast foods addiction continues to be demonstrated, these results support the role of fast food as a potentially addictive product that in vulnerable communities is most likely to generate dependency.

What is fast food/junk food?

Junk food means food with empty calories. A high-calorie food lacks essential nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals and amino acids but have high energy being calorie-rich. These foods do not provide the nutrients your body requires to remain healthy, hence are therefore known to be unhealthy and referred to as junk food. Junk food is an informal term invented in 1972 by Michael Jacobson, Director of the Centre for Research, Washington D.C. to apply to certain foods that are known to have little or no nutritional value, to ingredients that are considered unhealthy when consumed regularly, or to those that are considered unhealthy to eat at all.

What causes these fast foods to be considered junk? It contains elevated levels of refined white flour, sugar, trans fat and polyunsaturated flour, fat, salt and various additives to foods, such as Glutamate and atrazine monosodium; at the same time, it is lacking in proteins, vitamins, essential minerals, fibre. Such foods have little to offer – they have a high level of sodium and/or sugar, deliver high calories generally and are worthless in value. By comparison, it is easier to bring, procure and eat junk food than other food items. Sellers give a highly attractive appearance to junk foods via the use of food additives and colours to improve flavour and texture artificially and increase the foods’ shelf life.

Effects on teenagers and children

Children nowadays find themselves a culture in which wafers, chips, cola, pizzas and burgers are the most appealing food products. Due to this, they have joined a world of fast food and vending machines easily, utterly unaware of the chaos they make for themselves and their health. Healthy nutrition is a top priority for children, especially for those between the ages of six to twelve years. A study conducted in Beijing, China in 2008, eating junk food showed to be a common phenomenon among children and adolescents between 8 and 16 years of age. In such age groups, eating habits not only affect their development but also their focus, feelings and actions. With increase in number of both working parents, the working class has resulted in leaving traditional food at home behind and offering fast foods to their children. These foods are nutritionally poor, so become easily addictive and can sow the seeds of infirmity and crippling disease, which eventually leads to a lot of incurable diseases.

Studies reveal:

  • Beginning of artery-clogging starting at the age of 30
  • Prostate and breast cancer risks related to puberty eating habits
  • The layout of hypertension

are all due to increase in intake of junk foods.

Healthy Diet

Instead of junk foods you should fill your diet with nutritious foods such as the following:

  • Low-fat foods, saturated fat and cholesterol
  • High-fibre food including whole-grain meals, fruits and vegetables
  • Foods that have only moderate sugar and salt content
  • Calcium-rich foods to comply with daily calcium needs
  • Iron-rich foods for strength

In conclusion, Junk Foods have carved up the world due to globalisation and become an important part of life in the industrialised and developing world, leading to a lot of serious health issues such as obesity. Moderation and occasional intake in small portions are the secret to eating these junk foods. It is not difficult to win a battle with junk foods against balanced foods; nevertheless, one must beware of junk foods addiction. It must be recalled that the reliance on Junk “is perfect for business.” The choice of fast food or wellbeing is all in our possession.

 “Avoid Junk, Accept Health!

 No Junk, Know Health!”

Article by: Dr Rachna Khanna Singh

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