By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
For Americans, eating out can be seen as a way of life.
Data from Germany-based market and consumer data company Statista showed that on average, people in U.S. households spent $3,526 annually on dining out in 2019.
But recently published research shows that frequently going out to eat is tied to an increased risk of all-cause death, according to a press release obtained by Science Daily. The results of the study were published Thursday in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
While not all food restaurants offer contain high levels of sodium or fat, meals ordered from a menu tended to have more of those things than home-cooked meals. Restaurant eats also have less fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dietary fiber and antioxidants, evidence has shown. Fast food meals, in particular, are lower in dietary quality compared to those consumed at home.
“Emerging, although still limited, evidence suggests that eating out frequently is associated with increased risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes and biomarkers of other chronic diseases,” lead investigator Dr. Wei Bao, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of epidemiology, college of public halth, University of Iowa said in a statement. “However, little is known about the association between eating meals away from home and risk of mortality.”
The new study saw researchers using data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey 1999-2014. Participants in the long-term study filled out questionnaires given during in-person household interviews. More than 35,000 adults ages 20 or older reported their dietary habits, such as how often they consumed meals prepared out of the home.
“We linked these records to death records through December 31, 2015, looking especially at all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality,” first author Dr. Yang Du, a Ph.D. candidate also of the University of Iowa’s college of public health, said.
In the follow-up period from the long-term study, 2,781 deaths occurred. Of those deaths, 511 occurred from cardiovascular disease and 638 deaths were due to cancer.
“Our findings from this large nationally representative sample of U.S. adults show that frequent consumption of meals prepared away from home is significantly associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality,” Dr. Du said.
Scientists concluded that eating out often “may not be a healthy habit. Instead, people should be encouraged to consider preparing more meals at home.”
Additionally, co-investigator Linda G. Snetselaar, Ph.D., a professor and chair of preventive nutrition education in the University of Iowa’s department of epidemiology, said enlisting the help of a registered dietitian or nutritionist could help people make healthier choices when they do dine out.
“It is important to note that the study design for this research examines associations between frequency of eating meals prepared away from home and mortality,” said Snetselaar, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“While encouraging clients to consider preparing healthy meals at home, registered dietitian nutritionists might also focus on how selections from restaurant menus can be healthy,” she continued. “Tailoring strategies to each client by reviewing menus from restaurants they frequent can help them make healthy food choices.”