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Prevention & Nutrition

Hazardous

Hospital Foods How Fast Food Jeopardizes Public Health

cancer-promoting chicken nuggets and processed meats don’t reach $1 million, and hospitals make money from the increased sales of fast food loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. Patients Put at Risk

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GOOD MEDICINE Winter 2015

THINKSTOCK

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generation ago, hospital gift shops sold cigarettes. Patients could smoke in their rooms, and doctors smoked in the hallways and in the doctors’ lounges. Eventually, hospitals arrived at the decision to ban smoking. And happily, their days of promoting disease are gone. Or are they? Cigarettes are out, but burgers, chicken wings, and cheesy pizza are in at many U.S. hospitals. The Physicians Committee’s new hospital foods report uncovers contracts detailing what happens when fastfood chains embed themselves in hospitals. Cheeseburgers and milkshakes are delivered to patients, restaurant leases are broken when profits from

For the fifth hospital foods report, Physicians Committee experts examined more than 200 public hospitals, many of which receive government funding and treat medically underserved patients. The researchers identified hospitals with fast-food outlets, which sell meaty, cheese-laden products known to jeopardize the health of the communities the hospitals are meant to serve. A recent study in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that on days when people eat fast food they consume significantly more calories and saturated fat, which exacerbates obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. The study concluded that efforts to improve diet and reduce fast-food consumption could actually help reduce socio-economic disparities in Americans’ diets. The hazards of consuming meaty, cheesy fast foods are well documented. A McDonald’s website even advised its employees that “people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease must be very careful about choosing fast food because of its high fat.” Bacon, hot dogs, and other processed meats that are fast-food staples are known to promote cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. And studies have shown that chicken samples from Chick-fil-A and other fast-food chains contain PhIP, a carcinogen linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancer. “The previous generation dealt with cigarettes. Now it’s time to tackle meat, cheese, and all the fat and cholesterol they are packing into patients’ arteries,” says Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D.

Good Medicine - Winter 2015  

For the fifth hospital foods report, Physicians Committee experts examined more than 200 public hospitals, many of which receive government...

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