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Fast-Food Restaurants as a Minor Cause of Obesity Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 18th, 2020


It is not logical and practical to blame fast-food restaurants in being the main causative factor explaining the rise of obesity cases in the nation. The mere presence of fast-food restaurants does not automatically guarantee the rise in the number of obese patients, in the same way, that proximity to a high-calorie food item makes a person fat. It is imperative to look into the impact of human behavior in conjunction with poverty as critical factors in the fight to reduce the number of obese people in the country.

Educating people on the dangers of consuming large quantities of fast-food products is not going to have a positive impact, because people have access to high-calorie food items through the convenience stores and the supermarkets. It is better to answer the poverty problem first, and then educate them on other aspects of the obesity issue. Since it is poverty that compels people to consume cheap but fattening products from fast-food restaurants.


The moment the medical community issued bulletins, produced journals and made announcements mentioning the words surgery and obesity in the same breath, became the critical period in human history when human beings are supposed to take into serious consideration the health implications of weight and food intake. Without a doubt, obesity is a disease, but there a lot of diseases that do not require surgery. A surgical procedure is a life and death situation.

Therefore, when obese people are considering surgery they are doing so for the sake of survival. It is important to prevent the onset of obesity. However, it is not prudent to blame everything on fast-food restaurants. Stop blaming fast-food restaurants as the causative factor for obesity, because eating fast-food meals is not the only explanation why one-third of Americans are obese.

Acknowledging the Impact of Fast-food Restaurants

It does not require a neurosurgeon or a rocket scientist to understand that surgery is the last resort in any type of medical situation. Surgery is disruptive, risky, and, at times, unpredictable. Many people did not survive the post-operative stage of the healing process (Finkelstein et al., 2012). Thus, people that decided to go under the knife are desperate. They are left without options. One can argue that obese patients requesting for bariatric surgery are left without any other option except to allow a doctor to cut a perfectly working stomach and reduce its size to reduce weight.

From the obese patient, the risk-reward ratio of bariatric surgery is an acceptable gamble considering the consequences of delayed action (Finkelstein et al., 2012). In the absence of immediate, appropriate, and decisive measure to counteract the effects of obesity, there are only one or two things left for the clinically obese person. It is either death or expensive medical bills due to the need for treatments and the need to consume medicines to combat the ill-effects of the body’s excess weight.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), obesity leads to heart ailments, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and certain types of cancer. In other words, obesity is one of the root causes of a high number of preventable deaths each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Also, those afflicted by this medical condition are expected to spend more than one thousand dollars in medical bills as compared to those with normal weight (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016).

Indeed, blaming fast-food restaurants as the root cause of the obesity epidemic is not the most prudent thing to do. However, it is not entirely accurate and fair to entirely dismiss the causative factor of fast-food meals. Up to a certain extent, fast-food restaurants play an important role in certain groups of people. In other words, the lack of discipline in terms of food consumption, and the habitual ingestion of food coming from fast-food joints is not a practical approach to losing weight.

In a study involving 270 patients that were recipients of bariatric surgery procedures due to critical issues regarding uncontrolled weight, the researchers discovered a strong positive correlation between the consumption of fast-food meals and the manifestation of symptoms linked to obesity (Garcia, Sunil & Hinojosa, 2012). Although there were limitations in the research design, such as the use of Hispanic respondents as opposed to the multi-racial group of test subjects, the study already established the fact that the continuous consumption of fast-food products helps to increase the patient’s weight.

The connection between fast-food restaurants was also established in the study involving obese children. The proponents of the said study discovered that the incidence of a social phenomenon labeled as childhood obesity was on the rise at the same time when the number of fast-food restaurants in a given area also went up (Newman, Howlett & Burton, 2014).

In other words, the researchers claimed that the availability of fast-food products in a given neighborhood or downtown area contributed to the increased number of children suffering from the negative consequences of obesity (Newman et al., 2014). The proponents of the study went on to make the qualifying remarks that the rate of increase in the number of obese children was also affected by poverty and the urbanization level of a particular area (Newman et al., 2014).

An acknowledgment of the impact of fast-food restaurants in a given area had been made. However, the analysis of the research outcomes of the above-mentioned studies also made clear that there was a need to clarify the meaning and significance of the research findings. For example, in the study involving patients that went through bariatric surgery, the proponents of the said scientific inquiry mentioned a critical feature of the research design, and that was the selection of Hispanic respondents (Garcia, Sunil & Hinojosa, 2012).

The proponents of the study were quick to identify the limitations of the research procedures because they knew the implications if other research teams are going to look into the correlation of not only the eating habits of the test subjects but also the fact that their lifestyle or diet was seriously limited by their earning capability. In other words, one can argue that the test respondents were compelled to consume fast-food products not because they deemed these food sources as healthier alternatives. They continue to patronize these products because, in their view, these are cheap but quality sources of nutrients.

One can use the same argument against the study that associated the presence of fast-food restaurants and the spike in the number of children suffering from obesity problems. The proponents of the said study were quick to make the qualifying remarks that these children came from poor families (Newman et al., 2014). They were compelled to issue that type of statement because the next group of researchers and scientists that will use their research findings are going to see the linkage between poverty and the frequent trips to the fast-food joint. Just like the income-deficient groups that were tested in San Antonio, Texas, these children do not have the luxury of choosing food products from healthier alternatives.

The researchers of the said study also pointed out that the level of urbanization also affected the food choices. In other words, due to the high level of business competition in a given area, it is the business model of fast-food restaurants to be able to serve cheap but attractive food products (Newman et al., 2014). Other types of restaurants may have the capacity to offer more nutritious meals, but they are not going to compete with the prices offered by the proprietors of fast-food restaurants (Newman et al., 2014).

It is important to highlight the limitations of the aforementioned researches on childhood and adult obesity because it reveals a critical assumption made by the adherents of the idea to go after fast-food restaurants as the main culprit in the emergence of a social phenomenon called obesity. The critical assumption was that the mere presence of fast-food restaurants made it already problematic for people to combat obesity. This is the by-product of faulty logic because if one ascribes to this assumption, it is tantamount to comparing fast-food restaurants to a highly communicable disease.

It is not scientifically accurate and logical to develop an analogy comparing a fast-food restaurant to a communicable disease. Nevertheless, this is the inevitable outcome if researchers continue to peddle the idea that the mere presence of a fast-food joint is enough to cause a child to transform from a healthy individual to someone plagued with a medical condition called obesity. In other words, fast-food restaurants were deemed guilty by association. It is the same as saying that the existence of several car accidents involving a Toyota car causes others to predict that vehicles manufactured by the said automotive brand are unsafe.

Since the causative factors of car accidents are clear to investigators, no one in his right mind will claim that a particular brand of vehicle is the root cause of the problem. Thus, it is important to point out that the presence of fast-food restaurants does not automatically guarantee a sudden increase in the number of obese patients in a given area. If there is a correlation between fast-food meals and obesity, surely there are other more important factors involved.

Acknowledging the Impact of Other Food Sources

The research findings that formed a major component of this argument did not provide a detailed analysis of the calorie content of food products that are typically sold in fast-food joints. Thus, an assumption was made that these products are characterized as high-calorie meals or snacks.

The assumption went further to include the often-repeated observation that soft drinks are high in sugar content and therefore one of the reasons why consuming fast-food meals is going to have a major impact on the consumer’s overall body weight, especially if the consumption of fast-food products has become a habit. It is interesting to note that the same high-calorie products are accessible outside the fast-food restaurant. In other words, the same customer that finds it convenient to order a burger, fries, and coke also finds it convenient to buy processed food in convenience stores and supermarkets.

It is common knowledge among medical practitioners that sugary foods contain a lot of calories. Food products like cake and cookies are examples of high-calorie items that the average person can easily purchase in supermarkets and convenience stores. Also, beverages are the major contributors to weight gain due to their high sugar content (Forman & Butryn, 2016).

It is important to highlight the availability of high-calorie food alternatives, especially when considering the proposed solutions to curb the nation’s obesity epidemic. One proposal is to levy more taxes on fast-food restaurants. The logic is easy to follow because the added tax burdens make the proprietors increase the prices of goods. In this case, the prohibitive cost of fast-food meals would serve as a major motivator in switching to other types of food products. However, this strategy will not work, for a simple reason that the customers have other ways to acquire the favorite sugar-flavored beverages. If the prices of fast-food products become too steep, the average customer simply acquires similar products in the supermarket and they are going to prepare the same type of food at home.

Even if fast-food restaurants go out of business, the consumers are not going to be deprived of fries, burgers, and coke, because they already have access to the same products for a long period.

Obesity is Not Just the Result of Eating

It is also imperative to point out that eating high-calorie food does not automatically equate to obesity. People that are into manual labor or whose jobs require them to use a great deal of physical exertion are consuming large quantities of food products. Nevertheless, they do not develop the same problems as obese patients (Dunn, 2013). It is convenient to blame fast-food restaurants for serving high-fat and high-calorie meals, but it is also practical and logical to address the other aspects of human biology and that is the need to eat to work, not the other way around.

It was revealed earlier that poverty plays a key factor in the obesity problem that has affected the lives of millions of people in this country. It is imperative to add another factor, and that is lifestyle or behavior. It is not enough to simply educate people about the danger of consuming fast-food products without teaching them about the importance of exercise or physical movement. It is also critical to teach people about behavioral changes because even in the absence of fast-food meals, they are still able to access high-calorie food in their homes or workplaces.


The idea that the presence of fast-food restaurants is the main causative factor in the rise of obesity cases is deficient in scientific support. It is not logical to heap all the blame on fast-food restaurants, especially after considering the impact of human behavior and poverty. It is imperative to create research designs that look into the correlation between poverty and lifestyle changes because this is a more practical approach compared to the one-dimensional investigation of high-calorie food products in fast-food restaurants. It is poverty that compels people to buy cheap food products that are high in fat and calorie content. If they are given a choice they might choose a better alternative.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). . Web.

Dunn, C. (2013). Nutrition decisions: Eat smart, move more. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Finkelstein, E. A., Khavjou, O. A., Thompson, H., Trogdon, J. G., Pan, L., Sherry, B., & Dietz, W. (2012). Obesity and severe obesity forecasts through 2030. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(6), 563-570.

Forman, E., & Butryn, M. (2016). Effective weight loss: An acceptance-based behavioral approach. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Garcia, G., Sunil, T. S., & Hinojosa, P. (2012). The fast food and obesity link: Consumption patterns and severity of obesity. Obesity Surgery, 22(5), 810-818.

Newman, C. L., Howlett, E., & Burton, S. (2014). Implications of fast food restaurant concentration for preschool-aged childhood obesity. Journal of Business Research, 67(8), 1573–1580.

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