Saturday Jun 10, 2023
Saturday Jun 10, 2023

Growing fast food culture entrapping Nepalis

Fast food is tasty, affordable and easily available these days but can its dangers be ignored?

2023 Feb 24, 7:29, Kathmandu

The drastic shift of Nepali families from cultivation and consumption of nutritious and organic foods to quick ready-to-eat meals started in the 20th century, growing even more in the 21st century. However, junk and processed food, though convenient, result in poor eating habits inviting numerous public health issues.

Fast food and packaged food are very high in calories, salt, sugar and fat, but very low in protein, vitamins and minerals. Definitely these foods give pleasure and instant fulfilment of hunger and temptation but give little to no benefit to the human body. As such foods have a tendency to provide instant gratification, addiction potentiality increases a thousand fold for these foods as compared to others. “The human brain releases a chemical called dopamine, when sugary and junk food items are consumed. The release of dopamine provides pleasure to a person, which makes the experience associated with its release addictive,” says health expert Dr. Rajendra Bhadra. Even though high sugar items are often not listed in the list of ‘harmful products’ that come with an advisory, addiction to sugary food items is actually comparable to cocaine addiction. Several studies have pointed out how sugar addiction is similar to the addiction of opioid drugs but is often underestimated.

It is shocking to find out the amount of sugar, modern people are consuming everyday without even noticing it in the form of soft drinks and packaged fruit juices. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that an adult living on a standard 2,000 calorie diet should aim to consume about 25 grams of sugar per day. However a single can of coke contains more than 40 grams of sugar.

Junk and processed foods are largely available in the canteens of schools and colleges all over Nepal, especially in the urban localities. This further promotes the junk and fast food culture among the young generation of Nepalis. A study ‘Junk Food Consumption among Secondary Level Students’ conducted in the year 2017 in Nepal, reveals an alarming situation. All students consumed junk food on a regular basis. Among them, 90.1% of students preferred junk food for its taste, while only 54.2% of students were aware of the harmful effects of eating junk food on a regular basis. Even though awareness exists in a large majority of students regarding the dangerous effects of consuming junk and processed food in their growth and development, the convenience and easy availability of it tempt them to buy junk food products.

Extremely unhealthy foods, with extremely high amounts of sugar and other chemicals, artificial colors, additives in it are advertised with words such as ‘nutritious’ or ‘organic’ . Such clear deceptions of the advertisement industry have made junk and processed food appealing to the masses. Children and adolescents who are growing both mentally and physically are substantially harmed by foods that are laced with colors that can disrupt the smooth functioning of the digestive system. On the mental scale, such food coloring causes hyperactivity and less concentration power in growing age adolescents. “The harmful chemicals used in junk food as coloring agents, have more than thirty to forty different names, these names are used interchangeably in food products, so that if one knows how to detect one from the ingredients list given in the food packet, he or she will still be consuming other food items with the same harmful chemicals present,” says Dr. Bhadra.

Lack of proper nutrition is already a major problem of Nepal causing stunting, anemia and malnutrition among Nepali children. Furthermore, due to the consumption of junk foods at an early age, blood pressure, diabetes, heart related diseases, kidney related problems, digestive problems and obesity is becoming more common in young Nepalese. 2021 national study, ‘ Increasing use of junk food in Nepalese society, A Historical Study’ suggests the implementation of a clear policy to limit the consumption of junk food at a national level to solve the serious health risks posed by the junk food culture.

Urban people are more prone to resort to fast and junk food options as cooking traditional meals at home takes time, which is very scarce in the hustling lifestyle of working Nepalese people. The daily schedules of many urban people have been planned in such a way that preparing meals has no place in it at all. This lifestyle first gets people to spend money on junk and processed food then on health treatments resulting from the consumption of the same foods.


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