Young adults who regularly feast on takeaway, or takeout, food tend to have less healthy diets and larger waistlines than their peers, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that among the more than 2,800 Australian adults they surveyed, those who ordered takeout at least twice a week were less likely to get the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains. They also tended to eat too many desserts and high-fat, high-salt snack foods.
What's more, the study found, among frequent takeout eaters, 25 percent of women and 31 percent of men more likely to be moderately obese around the middle than those who had takeout once a week or less often.
Abdominal obesity is considered a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Past studies have suggested that people who regularly consume fast food — typically burgers, fries and pizza — tend to have poorer quality diets.
The current study asked respondents not only about fast food, but also about takeout from Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants. But these takeout connoisseurs still had generally poorer diets, the researchers report in the online journal International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
"We think our results suggest that reducing takeaway food consumption or choosing healthier takeaway food options may improve diet quality and prevent obesity," lead researcher Kylie J. Smith, of the University of Tasmania, Hobart, told Reuters Health.
However, she noted, longer-term studies are still needed to prove that.
Smith and her colleagues based their findings on the survey results of a national sample of 2,862 men and women between the ages of 26 and 36. Nearly 38 percent of the men ate takeout at least twice per week, as did 18 percent of the women.
Takeout customers tended to be less physically active and watch more TV than those who got takeout once a week or less often. They were also younger, on average, and more likely to be single.
But even when the researchers considered those factors, as well as participants' employment status, higher takeout consumption remained linked to a higher risk of abdominal obesity.
"Our results suggest that takeaway food is not just an extra item in an otherwise healthy diet," Smith said, "but it is linked to a number of unhealthy eating behaviors, and possibly displaces healthier items from the diet."