Dining out associated with increased risk of early death

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The past 12 months in Australia probably resulted in more people eating home-cooked meals more often and the upside to this is that it could have added years to their lives.

While people were still able to avail themselves of takeaway food options, even at the peak of lockdowns, home cooking surged as people investigated how they could cook their favourite meals.

A new study has found that frequently eating meals prepared away from home is linked to an increased risk of early death.

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The researchers from the University of Iowa looked at the association between eating out and the risk of death and concluded that eating out frequently was significantly associated with an increased risk of early death, which warranted further investigation.

According to the Eating Out in Australia publication for 2019, the average person spends $880 a year on food prepared away from home, spread over 65 transactions.

That report also shows that Australians spent 5.8 per cent more money on takeaway food in 2019, than they did back in 1983, and that increase in spending is close to double the rate of inflation over the same period (3.4 per cent).

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Although some restaurants provide high-quality foods, the dietary quality for meals away from home, especially from fast-food chains, is usually lower compared with meals cooked at home.

Evidence has shown that meals away from home tend to be higher in energy density, fat, and sodium, but lower in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protective nutrients such as dietary fibre and antioxidants.

Dr Wei Bao from the University of Iowa explained that eating out was also associated with a number of health problems.

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“Emerging, although still limited, evidence suggests that eating out frequently is associated with increased risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes and biomarkers of other chronic diseases,” Dr Bao said.

Investigators analysed data from responses to questionnaires administered during face-to-face household interviews from 35,084 adults aged 20 years or older who participated in research between 1999-2014.

Respondents reported their dietary habits including frequency of eating meals prepared away from home and then linked those records to death records.

They found that 2781 deaths had occurred in the sample, including 511 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 638 deaths from cancer.

After adjusting for a range of factors (age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic factors, body mass index, etc), participants who ate meals prepared away from home for two meals or more per day had a much higher risk of dying than those who ate fewer than one meal prepared away from home per week.

“This is one of the first studies to quantify the association between eating out and mortality,” concluded Dr Bao.

“Our findings, in line with previous studies, support that eating out frequently is associated with adverse health consequences and may inform future dietary guidelines to recommend reducing consumption of meals prepared away from home.

“The take-home message is that frequent consumption of meals prepared away from home may not be a healthy habit. Instead, people should be encouraged to consider preparing more meals at home.”

How many meals per week do you prepare yourself? How many meals per week do you eat that are prepared away from your home?

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Written by Ben


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