Fast food and quick plaques

Such was the title of Dr. William Roberts' editorial back in 1987 discussing the health effects of fast foods.

If you need a graphic illustration of the extraordinarily damaging health effects of fast foods, take a look at trends in mainland China. A recent editorial in the American Journal of Cardiology written by Dr. Tsung Cheng of George Washington University makes several points:

--The popularity of fast food in China is booming, with Chinese now more likely than Americans to eat in a fast food restaurant. Each week, 41% of Chinese eat in a fast food restaurant at least once, compared to 35% in the U.S.

--Average total cholesterol levels have skyrocketed from 150 mg/dl in 1958 to 230 mg/dl in 2003.

--50% of Chinese with normal blood pressure in 1992 are now hypertensive.

--Hospitalization for heart disease rose from the 5th most common diagnosis to #1, now constituting nearly 50% of all hospital admissions.

McDonald's and KFC dominate the fast food landscape in China, but up and coming competitors are growing at exponential rates. A media conversation that will surely be reported in the near future is the boom in obesity and diabetes in China as these trends express themselves in weight gain, as it has in the U.S.

I hope you've all seen the entertaining but frightening documentary, Supersize Me chronicling the travails of 30-something Morgan Spurlock as he eats all his meals for one month at McDonald's restaurants in 20 cities. Though focusing on McDonald's, the movie is about a lot more than that. It paints a picture of how fast food as well as food manufacturers in general have changed--distorted--our eating habits.

If you haven't yet seen it, I would urge you to do so and watch it with the rest of the family. My kids (ages 8, 12, and 14) were shocked (and entertained) and they haven't set food in a fast food restaurant since.