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The Fast Food Culture in Saudi Arabia Proposal

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Updated: May 5th, 2022


Research Statement

The increased consumption of fast food is an issue that has gripped the attention of healthcare providers worldwide. Castillo & Romo (2006) estimate that the fast food market is growing every year and many countries, which would have otherwise been perceived to be alien to this trend (fast food consumption) are slowly embracing this culture. Indeed, many people believe that the consumption of fast food is a western phenomenon but recent research has disapproved of this fact (Block et al. 2004a). Developing nations are easily emulating this trend. Saudi Arabia’s increased consumption of fast food is one such example. Other countries in the Middle East that also exhibit this trend include Egypt and United Arab Emirates (UAE) (Agrifood Canada 2011, p. 2).

The increased consumption of fast food poses many health risks. Some of the most notable health risks include obesity, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases (Mikkilä et al. 2007; Huang et al. 2003). The high incidence of diabetes is perhaps the most notable effect of the excessive consumption of fast foods. For example, there is an increasing rate of obesity not only among Saudi Arabian children but also among children in the UAE and Egypt (children, teenagers and young adults are the most vulnerable groups) (Block et al. 2004b). Rasheed et al. (1994) affirm that 30.6 percent of all healthy Saudi Arabian female college students are either obese or overweight (p. 289).

Health experts fear the increased consumption of fast foods will increase the number of type-2 diabetes cases because Traister (2011) estimates that such cases are set to increase 300-fold in the next four decades. The risk of developing strokes also increases with increased consumption of fast foods. Health experts warn that many fast food manufacturers use a lot of sodium to flavour their food, thereby endangering the lives of their consumers because sodium increases the risk of stroke (Pereira et al. 2005). In America, stroke is the third leading killer disease (with an estimated annual treatment cost of more than a trillion dollars) (Traister 2011). It is feared that if people do not change their eating habits, the national cost of treating strokes will rise to about 2.2 trillion (by the year 2050) (Traister 2011, p. 3). Currently, treating type-2 diabetes costs about $174 billion (this number is also set to rise) (Traister 2011, p. 3).

In Saudi Arabia, the situation is the same. Stroke and cardiovascular illnesses are now the new killer diseases. Diabetes and cardiovascular attacks are also becoming primary killers in the oil-rich nation. Abalkhail & Shawky (2002) explain that the adoption of western-styled lifestyles is the primary cause of this health concern. This situation worsened from the growth in economic development, which led to more luxury and fewer exercising among the Saudi people. For example, many Saudi Arabians use cars for their daily activities, thereby reducing their body activities. The lack of sufficient entertainment spots is also another factor identified as a leading cause of the increased consumption of fast foods in Saudi Arabia (because many social activities have now been centred on eating or drinking activities) (Agrifood Canada 2011, p. 2).

Researchers have developed many proposals to contain this growing health problem before it escalates to unmanageable levels (Traister 2011, p. 3). Some are petitioning the government to formulate policies to alter the price of fast foods (so that people can eat healthier foods and avoid the risk of developing serious health complications in the future) while others have advocated for more health education about the negative effects of fast foods (Traister 2011, p. 3). So far, there has not been any concrete progress made on these fronts.

The increased consumption of fast food is a new phenomenon. In the past, there were few fast food restaurants because people’s lifestyles were simple, and they had enough time to prepare a home-cooked meal. However, with increased work demand, fewer people have enough time to prepare home-cooked meals. The reasons explaining the high incidence of fast food consumption among young adults have been scanty, but lifestyle changes have been top among the list of many researchers (Rydell 2008). Largely, many experts attribute this trend to growing urbanisation but Paeratakul et al. (2003) posit that the changing family lifestyle pattern is the main cause of this trend. For example, the increased number of women who have joined the mainstream workforce has increased over the years and now, fewer women have enough time to prepare home-cooked meals.

Some researchers have identified a myriad of other factors to contribute to the increased consumption of fast foods. For example, the low prices of fast foods and their easy availability have significantly contributed to the increased consumption of fast foods among the youth. Similarly, the relative ease in preparing fast foods has made it easier for many people to opt for fast foods as opposed to home-cooked meals (Rydell 2008, p. 2066; Castillo & Romo 2006, p. 1236; Mikkilä et al. 2007, p. 223).

Many researchers have explored the poor health outcomes of fast food consumption but most of their studies are “Western-oriented.” Therefore, few researchers have investigated the consumption of fast foods outside “Western” countries (fewer researchers have investigated the consumption of fast foods in Saudi Arabia, or why this phenomenon prevails). This study seeks to fill this literature gap by proposing a study of the prevalence of the fast food culture among Saudi Arabian youth and why this culture continues to spread, despite the existing health risks. The aims of the paper are as follows

Research Objectives

  • To investigate factors that have led to the growing consumption of fast foods in Saudi Arabia
  • To evaluate the reasons for the change of eating patterns in Saudi Arabia
  • To find out which demographic group strongly subscribes to the “fast food culture.
  • To estimate the prevalence of fast food consumption in Saudi Arabia
  • To evaluate the level of awareness about the health risks of fast food consumption among Saudi youth


Sample Population

Since research studies show that most people who consume “junk” food are young adults, the sample population group for this study will include respondents aged 11 to 25 years (Traister 2011). The representative sample for the interview group will be ten respondents. This small population sample is appropriate for this study because of resource limitations, time limitations and the difficulty that may occur from getting Saudi Arabians away from their homeland. Moreover, the representative sample of ten respondents will ease the data analysis process and improve the accuracy of the findings obtained. The data collection process involves the administration of open-ended interviews so that the respondents can give their views regarding the research topic without any limitations. However, there will be a bias on the respondents’ race (in the selection process) because the study focuses on investigating the health patterns of Saudi Arabian youth. However, there will be no bias on gender or socioeconomic status.

Sampling Frame

The main sampling frame used will be institutional enrolment registers. Using the institutional register will ease the determination of the respondents’ background and their availability to participate in the research. For example, through the enrollment register, it will be easy to determine the age, race, gender, and availability of the participants. Moreover, there will be diminished incidences of false representation of ages or names.

Research Method

Based on the divergent views that may arise from the research topic, this paper will use the qualitative research design. Indeed, the scope and nature of the responses are unclear. Katsirikou and Skiadas (2010) affirm that qualitative research designs are appropriate for research studies that have an ambiguous scope and nature (in the initial research process). The use of the qualitative research design is equally beneficial for this study because it acts as a precursor for further attempts to undertake future research projects. In other words, from the findings of the qualitative research design, a more detailed analysis of the research problem may occur using the quantitative research design (as a recommendation for future research). Nonetheless, the main motivation for undertaking the qualitative research design is to cover the researchers’ different views and leave no issue untouched. Through this research design, it will therefore be easy to have a holistic and comprehensive understanding of the research problem.

Furthermore, through the qualitative research design, it will be easy to integrate case study from current and past literature and use it for purposes of gaining initial insight into the research problem. This feature is very important for this paper because this study explores a research topic that affects other countries too. These country reports are therefore specific in representing different cases that may be useful to this paper (through a comparative analysis). Finally, the selection of the qualitative research design is appropriate for this study because it accommodates unforeseen research dynamics. Its subjective nature is also beneficial in processing different research sources, with minimal bias. For example, Katsirikou and Skiadas (2010) explain that the qualitative research design is appropriate is useful when accommodating interpretive events because it allows the researchers to include their input in the research problem. Comprehensively, the qualitative research design is appropriate for this study.

Data Analysis

For purposes of data analysis, two tools will be used (coding and member-check technique). Sirakaya-Turk (2011) confirms that these tools have a high reliability in evaluating primary and secondary research data. Since the secondary research data will be expanded, it will be important to structure this data using the coding technique (as an interpretive tool). This data analysis tool will also be useful in producing a structured impression of the overall outcomes. The coding technique is a simplistic data analysis tool that assigns specific codes to organised data. This tool organises data according to related subjects. Therefore, for easy analysis, related subjects will have specific codes.

The member-check technique plays a complementary role to the coding technique because it evaluates the credibility, transferability, and accuracy of the secondary research data gathered. The member check technique works by establishing the disparities between the sources of information and the eventual quality of reporting. For example, the member check technique will ensure there is no significant difference between the eventual outcome of reporting and the actual source of information. This technique will analyse both the primary and secondary sources of information. While analysing the primary information sources, the member-check technique ensures that the outcomes of the study express the perspectives, feelings, and the context of the respondents. The same mechanism represents information from published authors.

Ethical Issues

Use of the Study’s Findings

Researchers have an ethical duty to ensure the use of the information obtained from the respondents is for the purposes stipulated in the consent form. For purposes of this study, the research findings will be for academic purposes only. Therefore, I will ensure that there is no mismatch between the intended purpose of the study and the overall outcome of the process.

Errors and False Information

Another ethical concern that may arise in the study is the inclusion of erroneous information. According to the American Psychology Association (2012), researchers are discouraged from presenting false and fabricated information in their research. Some of these mistakes may occur from differences in opinion or misinterpretations among researchers (or even readers). However, according to the American Psychological Association (2012), the above intrigues do not provide an excuse to harbour mistakes in research studies. Instead, the association proposes that research works need to demonstrate high quality standards of ethics while acknowledging any mistakes that may occur in the research process. Therefore, there is a strict requirement demanding the presentation of factual research information (which is free from mistakes and errors).

To avoid negligence and mistakes in the research process, I will ensure that I read and understand the university’s ethical policies and guidelines regarding research processes. This way, I will have a detailed understanding of my obligations as a researcher and the duties I owe to all stakeholder groups that depend on my research. Similarly, I will ensure that an independent source reviews my work to identify some of the mistakes that I will not be able to detect easily. The independent source may be my supervisor, a colleague, or any other dependable party.

Informed Consent

Informed consent is often important in research because it defines a participant’s consent to participate in the research (after analysing the risks, benefits, and procedures for doing so). Cambridge (2001) explains that informed consent is a central concern for research ethics as set out in the 1947 Nuremberg Code. Upholding informed consent for researchers is however marred with problematic issues like language barriers, religious influence, and false expectations (Escobedo & Guerrero 2007). Given the importance of obtaining informed consent in developing professional research papers, it is important to devise ways to ensure I get the full consent from the participants. To do so, I will adopt a four-tier strategy to ensure strict adherence to informed consent rules (at all stages of the research). This strategy premises on undertaking a demographic survey of the respondents living in the geographic area of study. Furthermore, taking more caution to elaborate all the details in the informed consent form and asking relevant questions (to ensure the participants understand all the details about research consent) will also improve the compliance with informed consent guidelines.

Timeline for the Research.

Tasks To Be Performed Period
Collecting relevant materials for the preliminary research One week
Preliminary consultation with the prospective participants and their institutions Two weeks
Data collection process One week
Data Analysis One week
Preparation of the Final report One week

Stakeholder Participation

Boon (2012) explains that stakeholder participation is an important component of the research process. Recent literatures, which have focused on the importance of stakeholder participation in research, amplify its importance (alongside the importance of researchers to embrace a community dimension in their studies). This ideology informs the stakeholder participation model for this study. The main stakeholders in this research include the respondents, the institutions of learning (where the respondents come from) and my sponsoring institution. Since this study will be for academic purposes only, no health institution or government agency will use the study’s findings. To enhance stakeholder collaboration, the quadripartite project participation model will be useful. In the past, this model facilitated the participation of project stakeholders in many researches and projects worldwide (Boon 2012). Existing experiential knowledge from researchers provides the background knowledge to implement this model. One benefit, which will come from the adoption of this model, is the realisation of minimal tension when integrating the functions of all the stakeholder groups. Finally, the model will enable equal distribution of responsibilities and roles among all the stakeholders involved in the research process.


The findings of this research complement the policy formulation process. Consequently, the policy formulation policy will complement the social responsibility of the research (to add value to existing health programs for social development). Indeed the findings of this study may contribute to increased awareness within the community and recommend ways to change this situation. Moreover, the findings of this paper will highlight existing gaps in healthcare policies and demonstrate how they can change (to address emerging health issues). More so, the findings of this study will reveal research gaps in healthcare service provision by exposing the underlying social dynamics characterising the attitudes of Saudi youth and how their poor nutritional habits affect their health. More appreciation for the social differences among racial groups may manifest in this regard and a tailor-made policy directive formulated to address these issues. Policy improvements may occur in institutional or government levels.

Similarly, the findings of this study may contribute to the design of health campaigns to discourage the consumption of “junk” food. This contribution will be a crucial addition to the growing stream of suggestions regarding how healthcare providers can tackle some of the more pressing health issues facing our society today. However, since this study focuses on the Saudi Arabian population, its importance will be more vital to explain how the Saudi Arabian youth can be effectively targeted through health campaigns to improve their overall well-being.

Finally, the findings of this study contribute to the growing body of knowledge regarding the research topic. The advancement of this knowledge may support future research on the health topic. More importantly, the findings of this study will be useful in the development of future research studies, which aim to improve the overall well-being of Saudi Arabians (with regard to the consumption of fast foods).


Abalkhail, B & Shawky, S 2002, ‘Prevalence of daily breakfast intake, iron deficiency anaemia and awareness of being anaemic among Saudi school students,’ International Journal of Food Science Nutrition, vol. 53 no.3, pp. 519-528.

Agrifood Canada 2011, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates Consumers, Markets, and Demand for Grain-based Products, Web.

American Psychological Association 2012, , Web.

Block, J, Scribner, R, & DeSalvo, K 2004a, ‘Dietary habits associated with obesity among adolescents in Dubai, United Arab Emirates,’ Nutr Hosp, vol. 24 no.4, pp. 437- 444.

Block, J, Scribner, R, & DeSalvo, K 2004b, ‘Fast correlation between university study level and the food, race, ethnicity and income: A geographic knowledge in explaining why fast food is unhealthy; as analysis,’ American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 27 no.11, pp. 211-217.

Boon, E 2012, ‘Stakeholder participation in Community Development projects,’ Community development, vol. 5 no. 1, pp. 1-17.

Cambridge, P 2001, ‘The HIV testing of a man with learning disabilities: informed consent, confidentiality, and policy,’ Journal of Adult Protection, vol. 3 no. 4, pp. 23 – 28.

Castillo, J & Romo M 2006, ‘Junk food consumption and child nutrition: Nutritional anthropological analysis,’ Public Medicine, vol. 132 no.10, pp. 1235-1242.

Escobedo, C & Guerrero, J 2007, ‘Ethical Issues with Informed Consent,’ Bio-Ethics Issue, vol. 1 no. 5, pp. 1-8.

Huang, T, Harris, K, Lee, R, Nazir, N, Born W, & Kaur, H 2003, ‘Assessing overweight, obesity, diet and physical activity in college students,’ Journal of American College Health, vol. 52 no.7, pp. 83-86.

Katsirikou, A & Skiadas, C 2010, Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries, World Scientific, New York.

Mikkilä, V, Räsänen, L., Raitakari, T, Marniemi, J, Pietinen, P., Rönnemaa, T, & Viikari, J 2007, ‘Major dietary patterns and cardiovascular risk factors from childhood to adulthood: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study,’ British Journal of Nutrition, vol.98 no. 5, pp. 218-225.

Paeratakul, S, Ferdinand, D, Champagne, C, Ryan, D, & Bray, G 2003, ‘Fast food consumption among U.S adult and children: Dietary and nutrient intake profile,’ Journal of American Dietary Association, vol. 103 no.9, pp. 1332-1338.

Pereira, M, Kartashov, I, Ebbeling, B, Van Horn L, Slattery, M, Jacobs, M, & Ludwing, S 2005, ‘Fast food habits, weight gain and insulin resistance (the CARDIA study): 15 year prospective analysis,’ The Lancet, vol. 365 no. 3, pp. 36-42.

Rasheed, P, Abou-Hozaifa B, & Khan, A 1994, ‘Obesity among young Saudi female adults: A prevalence study on medical and nursing student,’ Public Health, vol.108 no.1, pp. 289-294.

Rydell, A 2008, ‘Why Eat at Fast-Food Restaurants: Reported Reasons among Frequent Consumers,’ Journal of American Diet Association, vol. 108 no.12, pp. 2066-2070.

Sirakaya-Turk, E 2011, Research Methods for Leisure, Recreation and Tourism, CABI, London.

Traister, J 2011, , Web.

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