Health Fears Grow Over Junk Food

Health Fears Grow Over  Junk FoodHealth Fears Grow Over  Junk Food

The fondness for fast food is growing by the day and despite the health warnings and problems of obesity, there are no signs that its appeal- especially among youngsters- is waning. Packed fast-food restaurants in Iran are buzzing with customers and street food stalls are a favorite spot for children and even adults.

Alireza is a self-proclaimed fast food junkie who has tried ‘’a third of Tehran’s’’ fast food places and knows them inside out. He considers himself a ‘’pro’’ and a ‘’ connoisseur’’ and lets others benefit from his counsel. He loves burger and fried chicken. He shrugs off the possible health risks that fast food consumption might bring by declaring that the main purpose of life is to ‘’enjoy it” and that nothing compares to the ‘’cool’’ taste of a cheeseburger.

The relatively low price of fast food compared to regular traditional Iranian food is of course another incentive for him to gorge on meals high in saturated fat and sodium. Of course junk food is cheaper everywhere; a study by Cambridge University shows that eating healthily costs three times as much as consuming unhealthy food in the UK.

 It was found that more healthy foods were consistently more expensive than less healthy foods. There are families who say by eating at fast food restaurants they can have more family outings than if they were to attend more traditional restaurants with healthier menus.

 Kidney Stones

According to figures from the Central Bank of Iran, Iranians spend as much as $366 million on the “guilty pleasure of eating fast food.”

Dr. Abbas Basiri, president of Endourology and Laparoscopy Association of Iran says due to the growing appetite for salty and fast food, kidney stone prevalence is on the increase. Statistics show 8 to 10 percent have kidney stones - making the country one of the highest in kidney stone incidence rate,’’ he told Iran newspaper.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg as fast food harm is multifaceted. Eating fast food combined with other factors such as physical inactivity, have led to an increase in cardiovascular diseases. People who eat fast food four or more times a week, up their risks of dying from heart diseases by 80%. Fast foods create a much higher risk of heart disease because of the high level of saturated or trans fats, which can clog the arteries and, over time, contribute to high cholesterol levels.

Dr. Fereydoon Noohi, president of Cardiovascular Association of Iran and advisor to the minister of health says 33% to 38% of deaths in the country are caused by cardiovascular diseases. ‘’ What makes fast food taste good, is the high amount of salt and fat used in their preparation; their harmful effects are exacerbated by stress, air pollution, etc. and hence the high prevalence of such diseases,’’ he adds.


 Food addiction is a very serious problem and one of the main reasons some people just can’t control themselves around certain foods, no matter how hard they try. But fast food has qualities that make it all the more addictive. The fact is junk foods stimulate the brain in the same way as abusive drugs like cocaine do. For susceptible people, eating junk foods can lead to its “full-blown addiction.”

Dr. Amir Shahrabi, a nutritionist, says not only junk food contains known carcinogens but they are also largely to blame for obesity in the society. He says besides being high in calorie, junk foods weaken the “appetite control center in the brain” and make people put on weight. ‘’Our body was not made to consume junk food,’’ he adds.

What make the effects of fast food worse, are the regular side dishes that come with them, such as soda and fries. Shahrabi says sodium and trans fats are the worst ingredients that trigger disease in the body. They can even alter a person’s taste preference.

 Appetizing for Kids

For children, who do not always understand the health consequences of their eating habits, junk food may appear especially appetizing. However, regularly consuming fattening food can lead to complications like obesity, chronic illness, low self-esteem and even depression, as well as affecting their performance in school and extracurricular activities.

Furthermore, research shows that consumption of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables are decreasing, and rather, is increasingly becoming the norm, risking children to a lifetime of health problems. Experts blame junk food for rising rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. Increasing rates of chronic illness affect children who regularly consume junk food. Its marketing is also contributing to children’s unhealthy choices.   Scientific evidence shows regulating junk food market could reduce the incidence of childhood diabetes, sparing the health of millions of children.

Raising awareness and protecting children from the dangers of junk food is imperative. Recently, the ministry of education banned the sale of junk food in schools. However, greater effort is needed to give children the gift of good health so that they can carry it into their adulthood.