15-year study shows strong link between fast food, obesity and insulin resistance

December 30, 2004

Researchers have shown a correlation between fast food, weight gain, and insulin resistance in what appears to be the first long-term study on this subject. The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study by Mark Pereira, Ph.D., assistant professor in epidemiology, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Obesity Program at Children's Hospital Boston, reported that fast food increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The results of this 15-year study will be published in the Jan. 1 issue of The Lancet.

Participants who consumed fast food two or more times a week gained approximately 10 more pounds and had twice as great increase in insulin resistance in the 15-year period than participants who consumed fast food less than once per week.

"Fast-food consumption has increased in the United States during the past three decades," said Pereira. "While there have been many discussions about fast-food's effects on obesity, this appears to be the first scientific, comprehensive long-term study to show a strong connection between fast-food consumption, obesity, and risk for type 2 diabetes."

"The CARDIA study factored in and monitored lifestyle factors including television viewing, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and smoking, but determined that increase in body weight and insulin resistance from fast-food intake seemed to be largely independent of these other lifestyle factors," said Ludwig.

Fast-food frequency was lowest for white women (about 1.3 times per week) compared with the other ethnic and gender groups (about twice a week). Frequency was higher in African-Americans than in whites and in men than in women for every examination year. Age- adjusted fast-food frequency was relatively stable over time among African-Americans but fell in those who were white.

This study of cardiovascular disease risk factor evolution included 3,031 young (age 18-30 years in 1985) African-American and white adults whose frequency of fast-food visits, changes in body weight and insulin resistance were monitored and measured for 15 years. This was a multi-center, population-based study with study centers in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Ill., Minneapolis, Minn., and Oakland, Calif.
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The study was funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and the Charles H. Hood Foundation.

NOTE: To request an electronic PDF version of The Lancet article, please contact one of the media contacts listed above. TELEVISION PRODUCERS:
The University of Minnesota has b-roll footage related to these findings. Please note the following feed schedule:

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The Academic Health Center is home to the University of Minnesota's six health professional schools and colleges - including the School of Public Health - as well as several health-related centers and institutes. Founded in 1851, the University is one of the oldest and largest land grant institutions in the country. The AHC prepares the new health professionals who improve the health of communities, discover and deliver new treatments and cures, and strengthen the health economy.

Children's Hospital Boston is the nation's leading pediatric medical center, the largest provider of health care to Massachusetts' children, and the primary pediatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. Children's provides pediatric and adolescent health services for patients from birth through age 21. In addition to 325 inpatient beds and comprehensive outpatient programs, it houses the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, nine members of the Institute of Medicine and 10 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. For more information about the hospital visit: www.childrenshospital.org.

University of Minnesota

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