Contrary to popular belief, the study showed fast food consumption is actually higher among in wealthy families.
Almost 37 percent of American adults ate fast food on any given day between 2013 and 2016, according to a new CDC data brief.
"What surprised me was the finding that income was positively associated with more fast food", said Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, an associate professor and director of clinical research at the Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the new report. The team also noticed a difference between men and women: 37.9 percent of men consumed fast food but only 35.4 percent of women did.
The conventional wisdom about fast food is that people eat it when they can't afford something better, due to a lack of money or a lack of time. And among high-income families (those with incomes above 350% of the poverty line), 42% dined on fast food on a typical day.
Blacks were more likely to have eaten fast food on a given day than whites (roughly 42 percent vs. 38 percent, respectively), while 35.5 percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of Asian-Americans did so.
After the age of 40, Americans' fast food consumption steadily declines, the study showed.
Fast food consumption also varied by race, with black adults eating the highest amount at 42.4 percent.
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The CDC noted in its statement that fast food has been associated with a variety of problems, including elevated caloric intake and poor diet quality.
People from ages 20 to 39 were the most likely to say they ate fast food during the past day, at nearly 45%, followed by people ages 40 to 59 (almost 38%) and people older than 60 (around 24%).
Weinandy said while it's not realistic to tell people not to eat fast food, she would like to see healthier options.
"We do know that fast food advertising has gone up during that time by pretty large amounts". Reading over the report, she said, "On any given day, over one-third of Americans consume fast food - that's a lot of Big Macs and pizza".
Fast food restaurants have earned a reputation of serving meals and snacks both high in calories and lacking key elements such as fruits and vegetables.
Fryer said she and her colleagues chose to look into fast food consumption statistics because this type of fare has been linked with increased intake of calories, fat, and sodium.
"It is amusing, when we see news clips of a shark swimming near a beach, it scares us into not going near that beach. I see many people who are successful at this, though, when they take a couple of hours on the weekend, and again midweek, to prep food and then plan ahead just a little to take some things with them".