‘Is Fast Food Addictive?’ talk highlights blood sugar effects

University of Otago economics researcher Trenton Smith. Photo: Gregor Richardson
University of Otago economics researcher Trenton Smith. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Big health benefits would be gained if more dietary information was provided  about the effects of some fast foods on blood sugar levels.

That point was made by Dr Trenton Smith, of the University of Otago economics department, in a recent talk titled "Is Fast Food Addictive?"

Dr Smith’s talk was given during the Otago Global Health Institute’s 10th annual two-day conference, which was held in Dunedin last week.

His comments were based on evidence drawn from an experiment in which 12 non-diabetic adults were asked to wear a continuous glucose monitor for seven days, while consuming at least one globally branded fast-food meal.

The study had found "strong evidence" that "addiction-like dynamic properties" of the glycaemic (blood sugar) response, involving dose, rate of absorption and withdrawal, were greater for some fast foods, compared with freshly prepared foods.

Dr Smith said the study showed a big rise in blood sugar levels after eating fast food, and raised an important issue about the adequacy of standard food labels for fast food.

Some fast-food packaging did contain valuable nutritional information, but an important "information problem" remained, and standard labels appeared "insufficient".

Dr Smith said that sustained high blood sugar levels were known to have adverse health effects.

Several conference-goers attending Dr Smith’s talk voiced concern, during a question and answer session, that spikes in blood sugar levels found in his study were taking up to about three hours to return to normal level.

Dr Smith said that, as a precautionary approach, more information about fast food, and its physiological effects on blood sugar, should be included in label information.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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