Eating out can often have a hidden cost down the road, new research suggests. The study found an association between frequently eating in restaurants and an increased risk of dying earlier, along with deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Researchers at the University of Iowa analyzed 25 years of data (1990 to 2014) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a regularly conducted nationally representative survey of the lifestyles of Americans. During that time, more than 35,000 adults over the age of 20 participated in the survey and answered questions about their diet, including how often they went out to dinner. This data was then linked to mortality data updated to 2015. At that time, there were 2,781 documented deaths among those involved in the survey.
The researchers ranked the people in the survey who reported eating out at least twice a day the most often. And compared to people who dined out less than one meal a week on average, those who dined out frequently had to 49% higher associated risk of death, after taking into account factors such as age, sex, and other lifestyle habits. They also had a significantly higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease (18%) and cancer (67%).
“Frequent consumption of meals prepared outside the home is significantly associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality,” the authors wrote in their article, published Thursday in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
These kinds of observational studies can only point to a correlation between the things they are supposed to study, not to prove a cause and effect relationship. And that’s a big reason why it is complicated to draw concrete conclusions about how our diets they affect our health, especially something as complicated as death. A person who eats a lot is likely different in other important ways from someone who doesn’t eat out. If someone goes out to eat frequently because they don’t have time to cook at home, for example, they may not have time to exercise either or have trouble getting enough. to sleep.
At the same time, there are many other research showing that the food we get from dining out tends to be less healthy for us than food we cook at home, especially when it comes from fast food restaurants or informal dinners. So while you don’t necessarily have to think that dining out twice a day every day will directly and definitively increase your relative risk of dying sooner by 50%., it’s probably not very good for you yet.
“The take-home message is that frequent consumption of meals prepared outside the home may not be a healthy habit,” the authors wrote. “Instead, people should be encouraged to consider preparing more meals at home.”