Junk food

Junk food is a broad term that is used to describe a variety of food products from sweets that contain little to no nutritional value to products used in meals that may contain many essential nutrients but also utilize ingredients which are considered to be unhealthy when consumed on a regular basis, with some considered unhealthy to consume at all. The term is believed to have been coined by Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in 1972. The term has since come into common usage.

Some characteristics which may cause certain foods to be considered Junk food are containing high levels of refined sugar, white flour, trans fat and saturated fat, salt, and various additives such as preservatives and coloring agents. Other characteristics include lacking in proteins, vitamins, fiber and other nutrients required for a healthy diet.

Many forms of Fast food are popular with suppliers because they are relatively inexpensive to manufacture and are particularly resistant to spoilage. These products may also be popular with consumers because they are easy to purchase, require little or no preparation, and are convenient to consume. The consumption of products considered junk food has been associated with many health problems including obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and dental cavities. There is also concern about the targeting of marketing to children.


What constitutes unhealthy food may be confusing and, according to critics, includes elements of class snobbery, cultural influence and moral judgement. For example, fast food in North America, such as as hamburgers and french fries supplied by companies like McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut, are often perceived as junk food, whereas similar meals supplied by more up-market outlets such as California Pizza Kitchen or Nando's are not, despite often having the same or worse nutritional content. Some foods that are considered ethnic or traditional are not generally considered junk food, such as falafel, gyro, pakora, gyoza or chicharron, though all of these foods have little nutritional value and are usually high in fat from being fried in oil. Other foods such as white rice or roast potatoes are not considered junk food despite having limited nutritional content compared to wholegrain foods. Similarly, breakfast cereals are often regarded as healthy but may have high levels of sugar, salt and fat.

Some types of chips/crisps that are said to be "junk food" may actually be partially harmful because they may contain saturated and trans fats. It should also be understood that the detrimental effects of the empty calories may outweigh the benefits of the unsaturated fats. These foods tend to be high in sodium, which may contribute in causing hypertension (high blood pressure) in people sensitive to its effects with an existing electrolyte imbalance or inability to excrete sodium properly.

In the United Kingdom, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) do not use the term "junk food", and describe food as "HFSS" (high fat, sugar or salt) instead, based on a nutrient profiling model. They state that "HFSS foods can form part of a balanced diet, but research shows that children's diets contain too much fat (especially saturated fat), salt and sugar, and not enough fruit and vegetables.


During 2006, in the United Kingdom, following a high profile media campaign by the chef Jamie Oliver and a threat of court action from the National Heart Forum, the UK advertising regulator and competition authority, Ofcom, launched a consultation on advertising of foods to children. The Food Standards Agency was one of many respondents. As a result, a ban on advertising during children's television programs and programs aimed at young people was announced. The ban also includes marketing using celebrities, cartoon characters and health or nutrition claims.


Eating a poor diet when pregnant or breastfeeding may cause long-lasting health damage, according to child, animal studies by the Royal Veterinary College and London's Wellcome Trust. The offspring of rats fed fatty, processed food had high levels of fat in their bloodstream and around major organs even after adolescence, animals had a raised diabetes risk, even if they ate healthily.

See also

Super Size Me - a documentary film about junk food


External links

Search another word or see junk-foodon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature