Policy makers around the world are being told that their demonisation of fast food outlets over full service restaurants is misguided and wrong.
A study by the University of Illinois published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that eating out at full service restaurants is more unhealthy than a trip to a fast food outlet.
The study looked at the impacts of fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption on daily energy and nutrient intakes for over 18,000 adults in the US.
Eating out at either type of restaurant led to a net increase in daily total energy intake when compared to eating at home. Both fast food and full service restaurants led to a similar rise in calorie intake – 190 calories for fast food, 187 calories for full service restaurants.
Fat intake was also similar at around an extra 10 grams per person eating out.
However, the analysis of nutritional intake highlighted a surprising result with restaurant food having far more sodium and cholesterol than fast food.
Full service restaurants increased cholesterol consumption by 58 mg of each day, while fast food restaurants added only 10 mg to an average diet.
Fast food added 297 mg sodium to a person’s daily intake, restaurants poured in an extra 412 mg.
The study concludes that successive government-backed initiatives in the US have been limited to focusing on fast food, while full service restaurants have been ignored for their impact on health. “A holistic policy intervention is warranted to target the American’s overall dining-out behaviour rather than fast-food consumption alone,” it says.