Poor diet and smoking are the top most reasons for avoidable deaths today. Smoking has been the subject of many criticisms since the 1950s while the overall diet of US Americans has immensely deteriorated during the past few decades.
A huge part of the North American population is now considered obese, and this can be attributed largely to the influx of fast food chains and other sources of unhealthy junk food. Combined, these two make up a detrimental lifestyle for men and women of all ages.
Many people are now asking: is obesity worse than smoking? Or rather, is eating fast food junk equivalent to lighting up a cigarette? Let’s look at some facts and data regarding each one to know whether there is a ‘healthier’ choice between the two.
Fast food: A Staple Food that Shortens Your Life
McDonalds, which is number 6 on the Forbes’ most valuable brands, began in 1955 with only nine branches. They have increased to 31,000 today, serving more than 52 million Americans each day. 1 in 6 Americans go to McDonalds every day. This number does not include those who eat at Burger King or Wendy’s.
In total, 1 out of 4 Americans eats at some fast food chain every day. Although there has been a decline in the number of people who eat fast food junk every week since 2006, this unhealthy habit continues to bring deadly illnesses in and out of the US.
Such a poor diet, which does not only involve adults but a whole lot of kids too, is related to the fact that almost ¾ of male Americans and over 60% of female Americans are overweight or obese. Why not? Fast foods are highly processed meals that contain too many calories, salt, and sugar. Almost everything you can see on a McDonalds menu contains sugar, including their world-famous French fries.
Researchers also say that fast food, aside from being the ‘convenient option’ for sedentary lifestyles of most Americans today, is as addictive as cigarette smoking and heroin. In a study conducted at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, rats were found to have become addicted to food with high amounts of sugar, salt, and fat.
Like nicotine and other addictive substances, eating high-fat and high-calorie junk food, such as that which is bought from fast food chains, brings pleasure to the brain. More junk food intake eventually leads to the need for a higher intake to achieve the same amount of pleasure. No wonder, kids and adults who get a taste of McDonalds continue to eat the same junk every day.
The result of this phenomenon is gruesome: over 324,000 people die of obesity each year according to the CDC. On the whole over 600,000 people die due to poor diet in the US, based on IHME statistics. On the other hand, the top 5 biggest fast food chains earn more than $2 million each year per store. They earn huge amounts of money by selling the most popular disease-causing food without prohibitions. In exchange, people get sick with diabetes, cancer, infertility, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, depression, and many more.
Smoking: Like Fast Food, Deadly yet Thriving
Big Tobacco, like huge fast food chains, is thriving and continuously growing today. There has been a decline of the said products due to a period of legal battles between the state and huge tobacco companies in the US during the past decade. Even then, there is no doubt that the industry remains at large in advertising highly hazardous products to the masses.
In the US, approximately 42.1 million adults smoke, with about two-thirds starting the habit before turning 18. Every year, over 480,000 Americans die due to cigarette smoking. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 3,900 minors try smoking each day.
As a result, over 16 million people in the US suffer from chronic illnesses brought about by cigarette smoking. Worse, it causes almost 6 million deaths on a global level annually. On average, smokers have a shorter lifespan compared to non-smokers.
Over the years, there have been plenty of studies conducted regarding the harmful effects of cigarette smoking, including its addictive property. Results show that nicotine and 4000 other chemicals found as you light a cigarette cause numerous mild and chronic illnesses ranging from upper respiratory tract infections to cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
The sad fact about this is that, despite the regulations set by governments and institutions to limit the sales of such addictive products, tobacco cigarettes are still widely sold, and even accessible to minors. And while people die, the tobacco industry continuously invests in full marketing strategies worth more than $25 million per day for American audiences alone. In exchange, they earn about $500 billion per year.
Stop Smoking and Avoid Fast Food!
It is, therefore, fair and just to say that quitting smoking and avoiding fast food all together will lengthen the lifespan of the majority of the population. Also, it will help them save on medical costs that are spent on illnesses brought about by these unhealthy habits. Lastly, a smoke-free and fast food-free life will mean a healthier and happier one.
It is never too late to start anew. There are plenty of healthful solutions that support and aid in smoking and fast food cessation.