Cheaper Fast Food No Additional Nutritional Threat (230)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A drop in high-fat fast food prices this spring will not create an epidemic of nutrition problems, a University of Tennessee-Knoxville nutritionist said Friday.

 Dr. Michael Zemel said lower prices may draw customers who already eat high-fat meals at other fast food restaurants, but won’t tempt those who do not eat high-fat fast food to start doing so.

 “Fast food restaurants are fighting to win back customers who have floated over to their competition,” said Zemel, who heads UT-Knoxville’s nutrition department. “I do not think we should be engaging in a public health outcry over marketing schemes of the fast food industry.”

 Fast food chains are announcing plans to drastically cut prices of hamburgers and other popular high-fat food.

 Some nutritionists say it will increase the number of Americans with too much dietary fat, which can cause diabetes, heart disease and other diseases.

 Zemel says a diet that relies too much on high-fat fast food offerings is unhealthy, but fast food fare alone isn’t the culprit.

 “There are too many people who get too much fat and not enough exercise,” Zemel said, “but I do not think (lower prices) are going to get people to convert to a lifestyle that they do not want to engage in.

 “If their strategy is successful, they will only see people shift loyalties from one fast food restaurant to another.”

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 Contact: Dr. Michael Zemel (423-974-5445)