GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 07: In this photo illustration a man eats a hamburger and fries in a cafe on June 7,2006 in Glasgow, Scotland. New figures are suggesting that a large proportion of the population is clinically obese. (Photo Illustration by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Photo: Jeff J Mitchell
Photo: Jeff J Mitchell

Too much fast food may cause infertility, study says

People often warn of excess fast food consumption, citing diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity among health risks.

"Traditional fast food was never meant to be daily fare, and it shouldn’t be," said Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. "It’s too high in calories and salt, and as we now know, the chemicals that get into our food supply through industrial food production."

But Big Macs and Whoppers might also cause infertility, according to a study conducted by researchers at George Washington University.

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"We're not trying to create paranoia or anxiety, but I do think our findings are alarming," one of the study's authors, Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, told The Washington Post. "It's not every day that you conduct a study where the results are this strong."

Zota later said it would be more appropriate to refer to the findings as "striking" instead of "alarming."

The study found that increased consumption of fast food results in higher amounts of potentially harmful chemicals, including phthalates -- an acid found in many products, including soaps, makeups, luggage and automobile interiors.

Phthalates, which make items softer and more flexible, are used in hundreds of consumer and industrial products that demand high performance, long-lasting wear and durability. They're also used in the process in which fast food is prepared. The more machinery, plastic, conveyor belts and various forms of processing equipment that food touches, the more likely the food is to contain higher levels of phthalates.

"There's a vast amount of scientific evidence suggesting certain phthalates can contribute to several adverse health effects," Zota said. "I really hope this study helps raise public awareness about the exposure problems associated with our industrialized food system."

But anything that's gone through some form of processing or industrial packaging is vulnerable, The Washington Post reported.

"It’s not fair to say, 'Oh, these exposures only happen if you eat unhealthy foods,'" Leo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at New York University, told Bloomberg.

Read more here and read the study here.

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