Obesity is a condition characterised by excessive body weight. It is currently one of the biggest health concerns around the world. The WHO considers obesity as a global epidemic and a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. About 1.9 billion adults are overweight and 600 million are obese worldwide. Several factors ranging from prevailing health condition and unhealthy diet to poor lifestyle choices are known to contribute to obesity. If the findings of a recent study are to be believed, restaurants and their portion sizes may be one of the risk factors too. The study conducted by the international team of researchers and supported by FAPESP - São Paulo Research Foundation said that restaurants across the world serve oversized meals, which may up obesity risk.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, weighed and measured energy content of meals being served by eateries in Ribeirão Preto (Brazil), Beijing (China), Kuopio (Finland), Accra (Ghana) and Bangalore (India) and found that 94 per cent of the most popular main dishes served in sit-down restaurants and 72 per cent of those purchased over the counter from fast food outlets contained more than 600 kilocalories (kcal).
The findings revealed a significant correlation between meal weight and energy content. Researchers also stated that some popular meals were both far larger and more caloric than necessary standards.
Speaking about it, co-author of the study, Vivian Suen said, "Obesity is a world health problem caused by several factors, such as sedentary living, processed food and sugar intake, and overeating. Many people may confuse food craving with hunger. This study shows that any strategy to combat obesity should also consider these excesses."
The selected restaurant and fast food meals supplied between 70 percent and 120 percent of the daily energy required by a sedentary woman was approximately 2,000 kcal - except in China, where the energy content of the most popular meals was significantly lower.
The researchers said that the study did not take into account the mode of preparation or the nutritional composition of the meals analysed.
"The fact is that many people who patronise these restaurants are overeating," Suen said.
For the study, the researchers measured the energy content of a representative sample of 223 popular meals purchased from 111 randomly selected sit-down restaurants and fast food outlets. They further compared these findings with data procured from restaurants in Boston (USA) from previous studies by Tufts University.
"The findings refute two widely held ideas. We're not just eating the wrong foods but also overeating, and in terms of calories, a meal considered healthy may often increase the organism's energy balance and hence add more weight than a fast food meal," Suen said.
The energy content of fast food meals was found to be lower on average (809 kcal) than that of a sit-down restaurant meal (1,317 kcal). But the researchers said that they do not support eating at fast food outlets often.
"When non-obese people have a large midday meal, they normally feel less hungry in the evening and eat less for dinner, for example," she said. "However, obese people appear not to have this perception, as has been found in several studies by the research group at Tufts University. Therefore, this regulation in terms of eating less in the next meal doesn't happen in obese individuals," Suen added.
Suen said that one must not disregard the aspect of food quality. Consuming low-quality carbohydrates such as saturated fat or large amounts of sugar may up risk of several diseases.
(With inputs ANI)