ISLAMABAD, Jul 20: A meal in a restaurant might seem to be healthier than one eaten in a fast-food outlet, but according to a new study eating out at either location leads to a much greater consumption of calories than eating a meal prepared at home.
Meals consumed in restaurants were judged to contain higher levels of sodium and cholesterol than those consumed in fast-food outlets and at home.
The study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that Americans eating out at either fast-food outlets or full-service restaurants would typically consume 200 calories more per day than when staying at home for meals.
“These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet,” states study author Ruopeng An. “In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast food.”
Prof. An, a kinesiology and community health professor at the University of Illinois, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for 2003-10, looking at the eating habits of 18,098 adults living in the US.
In particular, Prof. An measured daily intake of total calories and 24 nutrients considered to be of public health concern, including sodium and cholesterol.
He discovered that eating in full-service restaurants was just as unhealthy as eating at fast-food outlets. The main problem with eating in restaurants was found to be that diners would typically consume more sodium and cholesterol in their meals than elsewhere.
“People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home,” Prof. An explains. “This extra intake of cholesterol, about 58 mg per day, accounts for 20% of the recommended upper bound of total cholesterol intake of 300 mg per day.”
In comparison, people eating at fast-food outlets consume 10 mg more cholesterol than people eating at home.
Even though people eating in restaurants would take in more healthy nutrients such as potassium and omega-3 fatty acids than people eating at home or in fast-food outlets, they would be consuming significantly large amounts of two nutrients – cholesterol and sodium – that Americans tend to eat too much of already, even at home.