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Burger and friesThe fast food diet has serious long-term effects on our health and well-being. Dr. Nadine Burke encourages us to nourish ourselves through conscious food choices.

How is fast food marketed to youth?

Nadine Burke: Fast food has a tremendous effect on our youth in ways that many of us don’t realize. High-sugar, high-fat food is marketed to kids on the go, and much of it is advertised to them on their way home from school. It’s tragic that the industry is able to market these foods to our kids, when you consider their long-term health effects, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Nowadays, kids are becoming smarter, but it seems like a lot of companies take advantage of the fact that kids don’t always think through what they’re eating. The fast food industry makes money on foods that have little nutritional benefit, and our kids often end up with a lifetime of disease.

How does fast food affect the growth and development of children?
Nadine Burke quote

Nadine Burke: A lot of fast food is high in sugar and fat. These types of foods stimulate the reward center of the brain, the same part of the brain that’s stimulated by cocaine, heroin, and other addictive drugs. Foods that are high in sugar and fat are, in many ways, addictive. When kids become accustomed to eating these foods, they want more. We see kids developing problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. You think that a 32-ounce soda is not that big of a big deal, but it can lead to serious long-term health problems.

What makes me nervous is, you have all these kids who developed diabetes when they were fifteen, and now they’re forty and they can’t work anymore. Not only does this have huge health implications, it has huge economic implications, in terms of our ability to be competitive as a nation in the future.

What can kids and families do to kick the fast food habit?

Tomatoes

Nadine Burke: I think that a lot of families have a hard time changing their habits because they think: “I grew up this way. I grew up eating whatever I want, and so my kids should be able to eat whatever they want.” They don’t realize that eating fast food can lead to disease and death.

Sometimes I just want to tell my patients, “Wake up! Stop buying the party line. Stop listening to the commercial that you hear on TV. They don’t care. They’re not going to be there when you are on dialysis from having diabetes for twenty years. They’re not going to be around to help you.” You have to take care of yourself. It’s about nourishing yourself.

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