Lean teens who eat fast food compensate for big meals

June 17, 2004 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Lean teens who eat fast food compensate for big meals

Even though fast food can be loaded with calories, not everyone who eats it gains weight. The trick seems to be to cut back on other food.

According to new study findings from the Children's Hospital in Boston, teens who regularly eat fast food appear to overeat hugely during each fast food meal, consuming nearly two-thirds of their entire caloric needs for the day.

However, teens who are not overweight appear to compensate for big fast food meals by eating less throughout the rest of the day, while overweight teens do not.

During the study, the research team escorted 54 teens who ate fast food at least once per week to a fast food restaurant. Approximately half of the teen participants were overweight.

The researchers gave teens an "extra large" fast food meal, asked them to eat as much as they wanted, and subtly recorded the amounts. They also asked teens to recall what they ate during two days when they visited a fast food restaurant, and two days when they did not.

The investigators found that both overweight and lean teens tended to eat around 1650 calories during their fast food meal ñ more than 60% of their needs for the entire day.

However, on days when they ate fast food, lean teens ate roughly the same amount of calories as on non-fast food days, suggesting they ate less during other meals to compensate for the fast food. In contrast, overweight teens ate 400 more calories on fast food days.

If teens opted for healthier foods - such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables - it would be very difficult to take in the same number of calories they ate with fast food. Healthier foods contain fewer calories than the typical high-fat, calorie-rich fast food meals, and healthy eaters' stomachs would likely fill up before they could ingest as many calories as they get in minutes from a burger and fries.

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