What Happens When You Eat Fast Food More Than Twice a Week?

January 10, 2005

According to a large multi-center study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), young adults who eat frequently at fast-food restaurants gain more weight and have a greater increase in insulin resistance in early middle age

The study, published in the January 1 issue of "The Lancet", indicates that after 15 years, those who ate at fast-food restaurants more than twice each week compared to less than once a week had gained an extra ten pounds. This same group also had a two-fold greater increase in insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes and a major risk factor for heart disease.

Fast-food consumption has increased in the United States over the past three decades. Experts note the difficulty of maintaining healthy eating habits based on offerings at fast-food restaurants. Despite recent health-conscious offerings, menus still tend to include foods high in fat, sugar, and calories and low in fiber and nutrients.

One reason for the weight gain may be that a single meal from one of these restaurants often contains enough calories to satisfy a person's caloric requirement for an entire day.

Participants were asked during the physical examinations given as part of the study how often they ate breakfast, lunch or dinner at fast-food restaurants. Researchers found that the adverse impact on participants' weight and insulin resistance was seen in both blacks and whites who ate frequently at fast-food restaurants, even after adjustment for other lifestyle habits.

Study participants included 3,031 young black and white adults who were between the ages of 18 and 30 in 1985-1986. The participants, who were part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, received dietary assessments over a 15-year period. CARDIA centers are located in Birmingham, AL, Chicago, IL, Minneapolis, MN, and Oakland, CA.

According to the study, men visited fast-food restaurants more frequently than women and blacks more frequently than whites. Black men reported an average frequency of 2.3 visits per week in 2000-01. White women had the lowest frequency, at an average of 1.3 visits per week in 2000-01.

OSHA to Issue Final Rule on Standards Improvement Process

OSHA published a final rule in the Jan. 5, 2005, Federal Register on the second phase of its standards improvement project. The project addresses inconsistent, duplicative or outdated provisions in OSHA's safety and health standards for general industry, maritime and construction.

The final rule revises or eliminates medical provisions in older standards that were once considered accepted practice, but have since been deemed obsolete or unnecessary in current medical practice. For example, annual rather than semi-annual medical examinations will now be required for long-term employees exposed to inorganic arsenic, coke oven emissions, and vinyl chloride.

In addition, the final rule eliminates reporting requirements that have failed to benefit employee health. For example, employers will no longer have to notify OSHA of all workplace releases for certain specified carcinogens. As well, while employers are still required to establish regulated work areas for vinyl chloride, inorganic arsenic, acrylonitrile, and for the 13 known occupational carcinogens, they will no longer be required to notify OSHA each time they do so.

The final rule updates chemical exposure provisions by making them consistent in terms of the frequency of monitoring and the manner of employee notification of monitoring results.

Lead Exposure Linked to Increased Cataract Risk by New Study

Lifetime lead exposure may increase the risk of developing cataracts, according to a new study. Researchers found that men with high levels of lead in the tibia, the larger of the two leg bones below the knee, had a 2.5-fold increased risk for cataract, the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment.

According to Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the results suggest that reduced public exposure to lead and lead compounds could lead to a significant decrease in the overall incidence of cataract.

One of the National Institutes of Health, the NIEHS provided support to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital for the nine-year study. The study is also focusing on lead's contribution to hypertension and impairment of kidney and cognitive function. The findings on risk of cataract were published in the December 8 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association."

Lead is found in a variety of substances, including lead-based paint, contaminated soil, household dust, drinking water, lead crystal, and lead-glazed pottery. After exposure to lead, the compound circulates in the bloodstream, eventually concentrating in the bone.

In an ongoing study of men from the Boston area, Harvard researchers tested whether bone lead levels measured in both the tibia and patella were associated with cataract.

Dr. Debra Schaumberg, the lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine and ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, said that the strong association between tibia lead and cataract in men indicated that lead exposure plays a significant role in approximately almost half of all cataracts in this population. Dr. Schaumberg also noted that, while lead in both the tibia and patella was associated with an increased risk of cataract, tibia lead was the best predictor of cataract in the study sample.

Cataracts develop as a result of cumulative injury to the crystalline lens of the eye. Lead can enter the lens, resulting in gradual injury to certain proteins present in the epithelial cells, and this leading eventually to a cataract. The Harvard researchers are among the first to use bone lead in studying the effect of lifetime lead exposure on disease risk.

Consisting of a clouding of the lens resulting in a partial loss of vision, cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Other risk factors for cataract include diabetes, smoking, long-term alcohol consumption, and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight.

Dr. Schaumberg noted that the prevention of age-related cataract remains an important public health goal; in addition to the obvious problems of reduced vision, the visual disability associated with cataracts can have a significant impact on the risk of falls, fractures, quality of life, and possibly even mortality.

Illinois Firm Cited for Failing to Protect Workers from Hazardous Conditions

OSHA has proposed a $119,000 fine against a Danville, IL-based sand core manufacturer for alleged violations of workplace safety standards following an inspection at the facility last July.

Chem-Cast Ltd. received willful citations for failing to lockout machinery during cleaning operations and tooling changes, and for failing to guard machinery to prevent workers from being injured by moving parts. Two serious citations alleged that the company did not provide training in the use of energy control devices and failed to conduct annual or more frequent inspections of the energy control procedure.

Machine guarding deficiencies and failing to lockout machinery during maintenance or other servicing activities are among the leading causes of amputations and can result in fatal accidents.

OSHAÆs Top Ten: Most Frequently Violated Standards

For the third year in a row, the OSHA standard governing the safe use of scaffolding, 29 CFR 1926.451, was the most frequently violated standard.

There were 3,411 agency inspections related to the standard, resulting in 8,654 total violations. Of those, OSHA considered 7,644 to be serious violations

As a result, OSHA levied $12.1 million in initial fines against violators of the standard. Following adjustments, the penalties amounted to a total of $3.6 million.

The top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards for fiscal year 2004 are:

1. 1926.451 -- Scaffolding; 8,654 total violations; $3,566,107 in penalties (after adjustments)
2. 1910.1200 -- Hazard communication; 7,320 total violations; $745,810 in penalties (after adjustments)
3. 1926.501 -- Fall protection; 5,666 total violations; $3,255,974 in penalties (after adjustments)
4. 1910.134 -- Respiratory protection; 4,312 total violations; $562,372 in penalties (after adjustments)
5. 1910.147 -- Lockout/tagout; 4,307 total violations; $1,950,134 in penalties (after adjustments)
6. 1910.305 -- Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment machine guarding; 3,337 total violations; $813,462 in penalties (after adjustments)
7. 1910.212 -- Machine guarding; 3,249 total violations; $2,277,629 in penalties (after adjustments)
8. 1910.178 -- Powered industrial trucks; 3,149 total violations; $1,084,870 in penalties (after adjustments)
9. 1910.303 -- Electrical systems design; 2,412 total violations; $757,568 in penalties (after adjustments)
10. 1910.219 -- Mechanical power-transmission apparatus; 2,333 total violations; $878,982 in penalties (after adjustments)

If OSHA were to show up in your lobby at this moment, are you confident that the inspector would not find any violations? If you are unsure, Environmental Resource Center can help you find out. We can conduct a safety audit to help you find potential problems, and better yet, we can help you resolve them.