Eating meals from outside of the home is common among Americans, particularly among African Americans, who also have higher rates of obesity than other counterparts.
Young adults tend to eat out more often at fast-food restaurants and these establishments are more often found in minority neighborhoods. A few studies have shown that frequently eating out is associated with greater weight gain than eating at home, but little previous research has focused on whether specific types of foods eaten at fast-food and full service restaurants have a greater effect.
A research team from Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center examined the association between consumption of foods from restaurants and risk of becoming obese in a large cohort of young African American women. Their results, published online today in Ethnicity & Disease, provide evidence that frequently eating hamburgers from restaurants is associated with higher risk of obesity. Higher intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks, which are commonly consumed together with restaurant foods, was also independently associated with obesity risk.
The researchers found that women who ate burgers from restaurants at least twice a week were 26 percent more likely to become obese by the end of the study than those who rarely ate burgers, after controlling for many factors including overall diet quality and sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption. In addition, women who drank at least two sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day were 10 percent more likely to become obese than those who drank none, after controlling for overall diet quality and restaurant burger consumption.
The authors concluded that, "the identification of individual foods or beverages that are associated with weight gain provides a basis for specific and straightforward recommendations to help prevent obesity."