NYS Certified Nutritionist

Fast Food in Hospitals, a Question of Ethics

Recently, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine [PCRM] announced findings, in the journal Circulation, that people consuming fast food once a week increase their risk of dying from heart disease by 20%. Two to three such meals a week increase the risk of premature death by 50%, and four or more fast food meals a week increase the risk of dying of heart disease by nearly 80%.

With the options at fast food restaurants weighted heavily toward burgers, chicken, fish, and cheese, with few vegetables in sight, customers are consuming more fat and cholesterol than they may know, clogging their arteries, and adding extra calories. PCRM obtained a contract from Georgia’s Open Records Act, and found that McDonald’s was permitted to provide hospital patients with “McDelivery” to their hospital rooms, including Happy Meals, birthday parties, and snacks like ice cream and nacho chips.

PCRM’s doctors, wanting hospitals to be the leaders in promoting healthy/delicious eating options, teaching by example, raised the ethical question…Should hospitals be offering foods that contribute to the number one cause of death in this country…heart disease?

PCRM’s questions led to action, and changes, in the financial arrangements between fast food corporations and hospitals in several states. This resulted in McDonald’s closures in Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Medical Center Navicent Health in Macon, Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, and Burger King in University Hospital in Newark.

When asked, most physicians suggest their patients eat a Mediterranean, and/or Asian diet, using animal protein as a condiment, while adding vegetables and complex starches. Hospitals should consider following the advice of their own medical staff, helping hospital employees, patients, and visitors to be leaner and healthier, resulting in a better quality of life.

Dateline: Latham, Albany County, New York