Fast food, also commonly referred to as junk food, is undoubtedly very popular in the UK but is closely linked with health problems including obesity , type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease

Research shows that those consuming fast food regularly gain more weight and have an increased risk of health disorders.


The advantages of fast food include convenience and taste.

As the name suggests, fast food can be quickly prepared by a restaurant or stall, is often quick to eat and may not require cutlery to eat.

Key to the popularity of fast food is its ability to satisfy the taste buds.

Fast food typically relies on salt, sugar and other additives to provide an enticing taste.


The following are common disadvantages to be found amongst fast food.

  • Highly calorific
  • Nutritionally poor
  • Low in fibre
  • High in fat, sugar and salt
  • May include additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • May contain trans fats
  • Often contain processed meats
  • Can have addictive properties

Fast food and nutrition

Fast food tends to be rich in macronutrients , such as carbohydrate, fat and protein, but unless eaten with vegetables, fast food meals are usually nutritionally poor and lack a good balance of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Fast food and additives

As described above, fast food is often rich in fat, salt, sugar and may include chemical additives such as MSG.

These elements help provide the food with its taste but the downsides include increased calories, can be harmful to our health if eaten too regularly and may also have addictive properties.

Fast food, malnutrition and obesity

Regular fast food intake and obesity are closely linked. The high calorific value of fast food is a major reason. Fast food meals are very energy dense; meaning a relatively small portion of fast food can contain a relatively large number of calories.

Obesity and malnutrition can coexist and the NHS recognises that a reliance on fast food could promote malnutrition at the same time as obesity.

Fast food and health

Research indicates that fast food promotes insulin resistance , which can lead to type 2 diabetes, as well as weight gain.

A 15 year study published in 2005 showed that people which ate at fast food restaurants more than twice a week had significantly greater weight gain and had twice the insulin resistance of that ate at fast food restaurants less than once a week.

As well as insulin resistance, regular fast food intake has been linked with higher rates of heart disease , stroke and cancers

Is fast food addictive?

Addictive properties of fast food are widely reported and research appears to back up the claims. One such study, carried out by The Scripps Research Institute and published in March 2010 in the Nature Neuroscience journal, showed that fast food over stimulated reward pathways in the brain which leads to addiction to avoid a state of ‘negative reward’.

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