Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size View as PDF Print

What is the relationship between eating out and take-away meals and body weight in children and adults? (2015 DGAC)

Conclusion

Among adults, moderate evidence from prospective cohort studies in populations 40 years of age or younger at baseline indicates higher frequency of fast-food consumption is associated with higher weight, BMI and risk for obesity
 
Among children, limited evidence from prospective cohort studies in populations eight to 16 years of age at baseline suggests that higher frequency of fast-food consumption is associated with increased adiposity; BMI Z-score; or risk of obesity during childhood, adolescence and during the transition from adolescence into adulthood. 
  
Insufficient evidence is available to assess the relationship between frequency of other types of restaurant and takeout meals and body weight outcomes in adults and children. 

Grade

Moderate: Adults and fast-food consumption
Limited: Children and fast-food consumption
Not assignable: Non-fast-food consumption in adults and children
Click here for more information about grading.
 

Key Findings

  • In children, seven prospective cohort studies examined the relationship between frequency of fast-food meals (six studies), or consumption of other types of meals and anthropometric outcomes and overall found mixed results:
    • Six studies examined fast-food meals: Three studies indicated increased fast-food intake, particularly more than twice per week, was associated with increased risk of obesity, BMI/BMI Z-score or body fat; two found no association; and one found no association in boys and a negative association in girls
    • Two studies looked at a variety of non-fast-food meals away from home, using varying definitions of food establishments and meal types and reported mixed findings for a relationship with weight-related outcomes.
  • In adolescents transitioning to adulthood, one study found high baseline frequency of fast-food intake was associated with increased BMI Z-scores at five-year follow-up
  • In adults, evidence consistently demonstrated a relationship between increased frequency of fast-food meal consumption and weight outcomes:
    • Five prospective cohort studies (three cohorts) reported that increased intake of meals from fast-food locations, or intake exceeding once per week, was associated with higher weight gain, BMI and risk for obesity.
  • Evidence related to the association between frequency of meals from other types of restaurants and intake of all takeout meals and weight is limited, but indicates traditional restaurant meal frequency may not be associated with weight outcomes:
    • Two studies examined total meals away from home or meal types eaten away from home, which came from both fast-food and restaurant locations, and reported frequency was associated with increased weight outcomes for most meal types
    • Two studies from the same cohort found no relationship between frequency of meals from restaurants (non-fast-food establishments), and weight-related outcomes.
  • Data are sparse regarding meal composition, studies in young children or older adults. Hispanic/Latino and Asian populations are poorly represented in this body of literature.

Research Recommendations

In order to better assess the relationship between eating out and take-away meals and body weight and obesity, additional research is needed to:
  • Standardize terminology used to define and describe various types of eating venues
  • Further define the types and quantities of food consumed and their composition at various types of venues
  • Determine the impact of the various subtypes of commonly frequented venues for meals consumed outside of the home on diet, body weight status and indices of health
  • Examine differences in the relationships for males and females of different age groups (especially children eight years and younger and adults 40 years and older) in regards to eating away from the home and weight gain and obesity risk
  • Enroll diverse groups of study participants to explore racial/ethnic, SES, cultural and geographic differences in weight and health status risks
  • Utilize research designs that examine the longitudinal impact of obtaining or consuming meals away from home, including frequency and contents of the meals, on changes in body composition, adiposity, weight gain and obesity profile from childhood to adulthood.

Evidence Summaries

What is the evidence that supports this conclusion? For more information, click on the Evidence Summary link below.
 
What is the relationship between eating out and/or take away meals and body weight in children and adults? (2015 DGAC)


Analytic Framework

What were the core elements of of the systematic review question including population, intervention or exposure, comparator, and outcomes (PICO)? For more information, click on the Analytic Framework link below.

Analytic Framework: Eating Out

Search Plan and Results

What were the search parameters and selection criteria used to identify literature to answer this question? For more information, click on the Search Plan and Results link below.
 
What is the relationship between eating out and/or take-away meals and body weight in children and adults? (2015 DGAC)