American fast food diet unleashes disease epidemic sweeping across Asia
Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
According to a recent study published in the journal Circulation, globalization continues to usher U.S.-style fast food into East Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Cambodia, where natives, especially those from the younger generations, are quickly adopting things like hamburgers and fries in place of their traditional fare. And based on the data, this Western fast food craze is responsible for a significant uptick in cases of diabetes and heart disease.
For their study, a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota (UM) School of Public Health analyzed data on more than 60,000 Singaporeans of Chinese descent. Study participants were interviewed beginning in the 1990s, and followed and tracked for about ten years. At the end of the study, researchers compared the participants' eating habits to rates of chronic disease.
They found that, among participants who were between the ages of 45 and 74 at the beginning of the study, 1,397 died of cardiac illness by the end of the study, and 2,252 developed type-2 diabetes. Those who ate fast food two or more times a week were 27 percent more likely than others to develop type-2 diabetes, while the same group was 56 percent more likely to die from cardiac illness.
Those who ate American-style fast food four or more times a week were even worse off, as they were nearly twice as likely to die of cardiac illness than participants who ate no fast food. And interestingly, it was only American-style fast food that was linked to the disease uptick -- native fast foods like dim sum, noodles, and dumplings did not appear to increase the participants' risk of developing chronic disease.
"Many cultures welcome (Western fast food) because it's a sign they're developing their economies," says Andrew Adegaard, author of the study from the UM School of Public Health. "But while it may be desirable from a cultural standpoint, from a health perspective there may be a cost. It wasn't their own snacks that was putting them at increased risk, but American-style fast food."
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