As lockdown measures are about to ease up a team of researchers has warned that frequently eating out is associated with an increased risk of death.

The trial involved analysing data from questionnaires completed by more than 35,000 adults aged 20 or older. The questions formed part of the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey which was carried out between 1999 and 2014.

Respondents were asked to report their dietary habits including how often they ate out.

First author Dr Yang Du, from the Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, said: “We linked these records to death records through December 31, 2015, looking especially at all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer mortality.”

Although there are some restaurants that provide high-quality and healthy foods, there are a lot of fast-food chains which are hugely popular.

Research has shown that when eating out, meals tend to be higher in energy density, fat, and sodium, and fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protective nutrients tend to be lacking.

Lead investigator Dr Wei Bao, assistant professor, of the Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, said: “Emerging, although still limited, evidence suggests that eating out frequently is associated with increased risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes and biomarkers of other chronic diseases.

“However, little is known about the association between eating meals away from home and risk of mortality.”

Among the study participants at the follow-up, a total of 2,781 deaths had occurred. Of that 511 people passed away from cardiovascular disease and cancer killed 638 deaths.

Taking into account other factors, such as age, sex, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, diet, lifestyle factors, and body mass index, the ratio of death among those who ate out regularly was much higher.

Dr Du said: “Our findings from this large nationally representative sample of US adults show that frequent consumption of meals prepared away from home is significantly associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality.”

“This is one of the first studies to quantify the association between eating out and mortality. Our findings, in line with previous studies, support that eating out frequently is associated with adverse health consequences and may inform future dietary guidelines to recommend reducing consumption of meals prepared away from home.”

The findings have been published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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