03/07/2015 06:19 BST | Updated 03/07/2015 06:59 BST

Restaurant Food Is More Unhealthy Than Cheap Fast Food, Study Finds

If you think forking out for a meal in a restaurant is better for your health than eating cheap fast food, you could be mistaken.

New research has shown that restaurant grub may be just as bad for salt and cholesterol levels as take out burgers.

Although restaurant food provides consumers with more nutrients than fast food - including vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids - it also contains more sodium on average.


The study, conducted by Professor Ruopeng An at the University of Illinois, looked at health data from 18,000 adults in the US to draw its conclusions.

It also found that home-cooked meals were healthiest of all, with people who cooked their own food eating around 200 calories less per day than those who bought their food outside the home.

"People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home," An commented.

"This extra intake of cholesterol, about 58 milligrams per day, accounts for 20% of the recommended upper bound of total cholesterol intake of 300 milligrams per day."

cholesterol graphic

An found that eating at fast food outlets added 300 milligrams of sodium to an individual's daily intake, and restaurant dining boosts sodium intake by 412 milligrams per day, on average.

"The additional sodium is even more worrisome because the average daily sodium intake among Americans is already so far above the recommended upper limit, posing a significant public health concern, such as hypertension and heart disease," An said.

sodium graphic

According to the American Heart Association, sodium raises blood pressure in some people which can increase their risk of heart disease, stomach cancer, stroke and kidney disease.

Most people in America consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day — more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association, so finding ways to reduce intake is vital.

This isn't the first study to find that seemingly "healthy" food is just as bad for our health as more traditional fast food.

Here in the UK, a study in April found that many high street salads and sandwiches contain more calories and fat than fast food such as burgers and pizza.

The study, conducted by Consumer group Which?, found Asda's 290g piri piri chicken pasta salad to be one of the worst offenders.

At the time of testing it contained two thirds of the recommended daily fat intake at 46.5g and had more fat than a Burger King bacon and cheese whopper.


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