McDonald's and many other fast food restaurants provide people with a cheap and convenient way to have a meal. However, many fast food items contain unhealthy amounts of sodium, fat and sugar if consumed regularly. A number of studies have linked regular consumption of fast food to health problems such as obesity and liver problems.
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Some sodium is necessary as part of a balanced diet because it helps transmit nerve impulses and helps maintain the correct balance of fluids in the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended amount of sodium varies between 1,500 and 2,300 mg per day. However, many items on McDonald's menu are high in sodium -- some with more than 1,000 mg such as the Double Cheeseburger and Big Mac, according to nutritional facts from McDonald's. Excess sodium can result in fluid retention, which causes high blood pressure and kidney disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Many menu items from McDonald's are high in fat which, when combined with a sedentary lifestyle, can result in obesity and damage to the liver. The recommended amount of fat is 65g per day based on a 2,000 calorie diet, according to the website Netrition. Many popular McDonald's items contain more than half of the daily recommended amount, such as the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (42g) and the Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips (40g). According to MedScape, a study conducted in Sweden in 2008 showed that eating a diet rich in fast food can increase the liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase, which can be a sign of liver damage.
The American Heart Association recommends women limit themselves to 20g of sugar per day and men to 36g of sugar per day. This is because sugar offers little nutritional benefit while adding extra calories. Many dessert items from McDonald's contain high amounts of sugar, such as the 340gr. Vanilla Triple Thick Shake (54g of sugar) and the small M&M McFlurry (97g of sugar). According to WebMD, researchers have found that high-sugar diets increase triglycerides and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. This can lead to increased health risks such as hearth disease.
While eating at McDonald's and other fast food restaurants on a regular basis can be unhealthy, you can still make healthy choices when eating out. Enjoy smaller portions and avoid unhealthy additives such as bacon, dressing and mayonnaise. Most fast food restaurants allow patrons to special-order their food without additional charge. Additionally, regular exercise can help combat the potential downsides of eating fast food, such as obesity. According to WebMD, most adults should aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, per day.
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- MedScape.com; Fatty Fast Food, Idleness May Harm Liver; Miranda Hitti; Feb. 2008
- McDonalds.com: McDonald's USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items
- MayoClinic: Nutrition and Healthy Eating
- WebMD; The Truth About Sugar; Katherine Kam
- DailyNewsCentral.com; Study Exposes Fast Food Health Dangers; Carla Sharetto; Dec. 2004
- WebMD; Your Exercise Routine: How Much is Enough?; Heather Hatfield