In today's foodie culture, it may not be chic to admit you like fast food. But the fact is, Americans do love the stuff.
"The main takeaway is that over one-third of adults and 45 percent of young adults consume fast food on any given day in the U.S.," said Cheryl D. Fryar, health statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics, which released survey data Wednesday on the topic.
One of the key findings of the survey of U.S. adults between 2013 and 2016 related to income. The more money a survey participant had, the more likely they would buy fast food, she said. The Americans most likely to eat fast food daily were black men ages 20 to 39.
The data also found the percentage of adults who ate fast food decreased with age. While almost 45 percent of younger adults aged 20 to 39 ate the mass-produced fare on a daily basis, only 24 percent of adults aged 60 and older consumed fast food on any given day. Women who eat fast food were more likely to report ordering a snack than men were, the data found.
Lunch was the most popular fast-food meal, followed by dinner, breakfast, and snacks, the data indicated.
When researchers looked at the data by race, fast-food consumption was highest for black adults (42 percent), followed by white adults (37 percent), Hispanic adults (35 percent), and Asian adults (30 percent).
This report did not look at the fast-food habits of those under 18 years, Fryar said. But a 2011 study found that 34 percent of U.S. youth consumed fast food, she said.
The data are intended to give the public and policy-makers the information they need for any health-related campaigns, since fast food is associated with higher-calorie meals and increased fat and sodium intake, said Fryar. The survey didn't get specifics about which chains were most frequented, or which products were most often ordered.
"We know a lot of people eat fast food," said Nyree Dardarian, a licensed dietitian and director of the Center for Nutrition and Performance at Drexel University. "The number did not surprise me at all. I thought it was going to be a lot higher."
This summer, Dardarian ate every meal for the month of July at McDonald's to show that with proper food choices and portion control you can still eat healthily at fast-food restaurants.
Dardarian said that what is not known from the new data is the general health characteristics — weight, cholesterol, exercise habits — of those in the survey and whether they are at greater risk for disease just because they were eating at fast-food restaurants.