Breaking down the statistics even further, Fryer's team found that black consumers were more likely to have eaten fast food on a given day than white consumers (42 percent compared to 38 percent, respectively). The data doesn't say that those same people eat fast food every day, but each day of the year, almost 37% of American adults are consuming fast food.
"This study informs you that over a third of U.S. adults and about 45 percent of young adults consume fast food in the U.S.", Cheryl Fryar, a health statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics and author on the study, told Newsweek. That's about 85 million people.
Black men were the most avid consumers of fast food - nearly 42 percent had eaten the fare over the past day, the report found.
The study suggested that fast food consumption tends to dwindle with age, as that number fell to under 38 percent for those in their 40s and 50s.
Researchers analyzed several years worth of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The team also noticed a difference between men and women: 37.9 percent of men consumed fast food but only 35.4 percent of women did. And among high-income families (those with incomes above 350 percent of the poverty line), 42 percent dined on fast food on a typical day.
The data revealed that fast food consumption varied by age, income level, race and sex.
Fast food is on the menu all day long. The most common meal for fast food intake was lunch (43.7 percent), followed by dinner (42.0 percent), then breakfast (22.8 percent) and snacks (22.6 percent). That's significantly more than the 39.1 percent of women who do the same.
Whatever your income bracket, fast food probably isn't doing your health any favors.
By now, you might be wondering what it would take for Americans to dial back their addiction to fast food.
"When we see news clips of a shark swimming near a beach, it scares us into not going near that beach", Weinandy said. Roughly 35 percent of Hispanic consumers and 31 percent of Asian-American consumers said they had eaten fast food the prior day. But "what we should be scared of is double cheeseburgers, french fries and large amounts of sugary beverages".
She added that despite fast food establishments saying they're offering healthier options - they merely have the perception of being healthy. And after we turn 60, only 24.1 percent of us rely on fast food for at least one of our daily meals or snacks.
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