Most of the fast food joints are seen teeming customers waiting to sink their teeth into the finger-licking burgers, pizzas, chicken nuggets and many more items. A large number of customers include children who are especially fond of French fries.
Study after study has indicated the bad effects of junk food on children. They tend to make them obese, develop health problems and according to a recent study, even hamper their performance in exams. The BBC quoting a survey recently reported how revision and snacking go hand in hand and how junk food could hamper the chances of exam-stressed youngsters' success. Eight out of 10 youngsters told researchers for the UK's School Food Trust they were likely to snack more and eat less healthily when revising. Trust chairwoman Prue Leith said there was clear evidence that "smart eating" and not junk food boosted brainpower.
That's not all. Junk food also tends to disturb our emotional balance, say doctors. Psychiatrist Dr Sfanjay Chugh informs, "Research shows that there are some food items that tend to affect or alter our moods and emotions due to shifts created in neuro-transmitters, though temporarily. They bring about a change in our mood state, level of concentration or generate a feeling of relaxation and the mind tends to form these associations quickly. A lot of emotional eating can be attributed to this."
Even parents know that junk food is harmful for health and yet can't stop themselves or their kids from gorging on burgers and such items. And the reason is addiction. "I know that too much junk food is bad. But it is so tasty," says Poonam Goel, a resident of Vaishali in Ghaziabad.Chugh says junk food is usually high in sugar and fat which has the potential to make one addicted to it due to the changes it produces in the brain. It is because of this reason that not only children even adults crave for it."It is also noticed that long abstinence from such foods can make people irritable, restless and at times make them feel dull and low. These are classic signs of withdrawal that are associated with addictions of any kind," he says.An Australian study has also confirmed the addiction. In a two-month long study, rats were allowed to gorge on foods rich in sugar and fat. When this food was, the rats became anxious.
Another study by Canadian researchers published in the journal BioMedCentral Public Health says living in neighbourhoods that have more fast food outlets than grocers or vegetable markets appears to increase the risk of obesity. The lower the ratio of fast food restaurants and convenience stores to grocery or produce stores, the lower the chances of being obese, it said.
The findings hold meaning for Indian neighbourhoods where modern fast food outlets are competing with vendors of traditional Indian junk food. For example, in any locality in either Delhi or NCR, one is likely to find at least one MacDonald, one Pizza Hut and one Domino's outlet.Yet another survey sometime back by the Delhi Diabetes Research Centre found that lack of exercise, preference for burgers over vegetables, drinking of colas and eating outside food have started telling on Delhi's school children, 12 per cent of whom were found to be overweight and six per cent were found to be obese.
So kids and parents, taste is okay but what about health? One study may be wrong but not surely all of them. So the next time you are licking your fingers to savour that lingering taste, just spare a thought: Am I doing the right thing?