Junk food

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A poster at Camp Pendleton’s 21-Area Health Promotion Center describes the effects of junk food that many Marines and sailors consume.

Junk food is a term used to describe food that is of little nutritional value and often high in fat, sugar, salt, and calories.[1][2] It is widely believed that the term was coined by Michael F. Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in 1972.[3]

Junk foods typically contain high levels of calories from sugar or fat with little protein, vitamins or minerals. Foods commonly considered junk foods include salted snack foods, gum, candy, sweet desserts, fried fast food, and sugary carbonated beverages.[4] Many foods such as hamburgers, pizza, and tacos can be considered either healthy or junk food depending on their ingredients and preparation methods.[5] The more highly processed items usually fall under the junk food category,[6] including breakfast cereals that are mostly sugar or high-fructose corn syrup and white flour or milled corn.[7]

What is and is not junk food can also depend on the person's class and social status, with wealthier people tending to have a broader definition while lower-income consumers may see fewer foods as junk food. Especially in the case of ethnic foods, a classification as “junk food” could be perceived as rather offensive, given that such foods have been prepared and consumed for centuries and may contain healthy ingredients.

Despite being labeled as "junk," such foods usually do not pose any immediate health concerns and are generally safe when integrated into a well balanced diet.[8][9] "A high ratio of television ads for junk foods" was a cause of alarm for the McGovern committee in 1977.[10]

Health effects[edit]

Eating junk food is a major cause of obesity. Researchers at Harvard University predict that by 2050, 42 percent of the U.S. population will be obese. The excess fat, carbohydrates, and processed sugar found in junk food contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight gain, and many other chronic health conditions.[1][11]A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny at the Scripps Research Institute in 2008 suggested that junk food consumption alters brain activity in a manner similar to addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.[12] After many weeks with unlimited access to junk food, the pleasure centers of rat brains became desensitized, requiring more food for pleasure. After the junk food was taken away and replaced with a healthy diet, the rats starved for two weeks instead of eating nutritious fare.[13] A 2007 British Journal of Nutrition study found that female rats who eat junk food during pregnancy increased the likelihood of unhealthy eating habits in their offspring.[14]


See also: Soda tax

In an attempt to reduce saturated fat consumption, from December 2011 to November 2012 Denmark introduced the first fat-food tax in the world by imposing a surcharge on all foods (including natural ingredients) that contain more than 2.3 percent saturated fat.[15] Hungary has also imposed a tax on packaged foods that contain unhealthy concentrations, such as beverages containing more than 20 mg of caffeine per 100 ml.[16]

Norway taxes refined sugar, and Mexico has various excises on unhealthy food.[citation needed]

Junk food advertising[edit]

Junk food is advertised in sporting events.[17]


Vincent Marks, in the book Panic Nation, argues that the term junk food doesn't make sense: food is nutrition and not junk.[18] He points out that use of the term is merely a way to indicate dislike. The fact that an oxymoron has become a commonly used term indicates some social disorder and a blatant claim of elitism. From the nutritional point of view, some of the materials sold as food don't merit the term, and in that case there is no need to refer to them as any particular type of food.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Glossary
  2. ^ junk food - Google Search
  3. ^ O'Neill, Brendon (November 30, 2006). "Is this what you call junk food?". BBC News. Retrieved June 29, 2010. 
  4. ^ Larsen, Joeanne; MS, RD, LD http://www.dietitian.com/junkfood.html
  5. ^ University of Glasgow (31 October 2013). "Pizza perfect! A nutritional overhaul of 'junk food,' ready-meals is possible". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "What Makes a Food Junk?". Huffington Post. 4 August 2010. 
  7. ^ Magee, Elaine. "Junk-Food Facts". WebMD. 
  8. ^ What Is Junk Food? (with pictures)
  9. ^ Junk-Food Facts
  10. ^ Warren Belasco (1989) Appetite for Change: how the counterculture took on the food industry 1966 — 1988, page 150, Pantheon Books ISBN 0394543998
  11. ^ Tracey Roizman, D.C., Demand Media SFGATE Healthy Eating. Editorial approval, 6/30/12.
  12. ^ Johnson, Paul M.; Kenny, Paul J. (2010). "Addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats: Role for dopamine D2 receptors". Nature Neuroscience 13 (5): 635–41. doi:10.1038/nn.2519. PMC 2947358. PMID 20348917. 
  13. ^ Goodwin, Jennifer (March 29, 2010). "Junk Food 'Addiction' May Be Real". Bloomberg Business Week. BLOOMBERG L.P. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Craving for junk food 'inherited' Mothers who eat junk food during pregnancy may be condemning their children to crave the same diet, according to animal tests. BBC News. 14 August 2007.
  15. ^ Clemens Bomsdorf. "Denmark Scraps Much-Maligned 'Fat Tax' After a Year". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  16. ^ "Welcoming the age of disease prevention". December 17, 2011. 
  17. ^ Hagan, Kate (27 January 2015). "Junk food ads saturate cricket". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  18. ^ O'Neill, Brendan (3 October 2005). "Is junk food a myth?". BBC News (London: BBC). Retrieved 10 February 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

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