Thursday, July 05, 2012


In my many lectures, drawing from the developed nation data, I have always taught that fast food is bad for your heart and your health, meaning obesity, diabetes and hypertension, which lead on to heart disease. I have been looking around for Asian data. Well, there is now data.
Dr Andrew Odegaard from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, published their findings on the Singapore Chinese Health Study, in the July 2nd issue of Circulation. They came to Singapore and interviewed Singaporeans ablout their food habits ( and I guess other lifestyles as well since it is called the Singapore Chinese Health Study ), from 1993 - 1998, with the latest follow-up study in 2009. They did a food questionaire on their frequency to fast food restaurants. The fast food chains involved included McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and Whoppers. They enrolled about 50,000 people. About 43,176 were included in the Diabetes cohort, and about 52,584 in the heart disease cohort. The diabetes cohort had their last follow-up interview in 2004. The study found 2252 cases of new diabetes in this population, giving a 27% increase in the incidence of T2DM from fast food in those who consume fast food more then 2x a week compared to those who do not. In the heart disease cohort of 52,584, they found 1397 deaths from heart disease ( now deaths in Singapore are properly documented as it is a small island state). Their last follow-up interview was 2009.  Death is a very definite hard end-point that no one can dispute.That gives a 56% increase incidence of cardiovascular deaths in those who consume fast food 2x or more a week.
Now, this is certainly alarming. I wonder if the Singapore government will take steps to stop fast food advertisement and later stop fast food. A 56% increase must certainly burden the healthcare budget.
We could blame it on trans fat, we could blame it on the high sugar content in the carbonated drinks, we could blame in on the potato chips and all the oils. Or very likely, the harm is a combination of all three.  And the people who consume fast foods are also mainly the "hurry burry" people who lack exercise and take the escalator to the first floor.
Although we are not Singaporeans, the message for Malaysians, especially for Malaysian Chinese is clear. Consume fast food 2x or more a week and you run a 50% increase risk of dying from heart disease.
I do not consume fast food, so in that sense I was biase. Initially as children, our family was too poor, and when we grew up, we learned of the bad effects of fast food, so we dont. I could never understand why people do it, knowing the tremendous harm that all these fast foods can do. 

STOP THE BIG MAC and the KUNG FU CHICKEN, to improve your heart and your health.

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