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Supersizing the Kingdom

Fast food is bad for you. The speed might be convenient, but, like fast-food joints around the world, restaurants such as KFC, BB World, Lucky Burger and Master Grille serve up food that is packed with fat, sodium and sugar.

While the health risks of fast food have been widely covered by the Western media in recent years, perhaps most famously in the 2004 film Supersize Me, in which writer and director Morgan Spurlock documents a month of eating only McDonalds, there is not a lot of information available to Cambodians about the health risks of fast-food.

The vast majority of Cambodians, particularly those living outside of Phnom Penh, have never been to a fast-food restaurant, but since the number of fast food patrons is growing steadily, Lift decided to look at how this fare might impact upon
Cambodians in the years to come.

In an article for CBS news interactive business website bnet.com, Melanie Warner wrote that the exportation of Western diets to developing countries posed a serious health risk to those middle- and upper-class portions of the population who can afford the relatively expensive food. “A migration to fast food, after all, means the adoption of the Western diets so often criticised for contributing to chronic disease and weight gain. And it spells trouble for the future of home cooking and traditional foods,” she wrote in her April 30 article.

Experts in Cambodia agreed that fast food poses health risks that may not have existed previously, but also said that moderation should be the primary concern. Dr Ly Chenghuy, who is the director of Health magazine as well as a doctor at LCC Medical Centre in Phnom Penh, said that eating too much of anything could make people fat. “People need protein, fats and sugars,” he said, but “restaurants tend to have excessive amounts of butter and sugar. If people eat too much of these substances they will gain weight”.

Becoming unhealthy or overweight does not only change the way your body looks, obesity has been shown to negatively impact upon people’s self image and confidence.
Vong Em Sam An explained that people prefer fast food for famous brands and fast service, but that overeating could lead to long-term negative effects on people’s minds and spirits.

Although it is unhealthy in excess, fast food can be part of a healthy lifestyle. According to Ly Chenghuy, people should be careful about what they eat, and restaurants should put less fats and sugars into their food.

“People have to consider their own situation,” he said. “If they do not need to worry about gaining weight, eat fast food. But, if you want to lose weight, don’t eat it.”

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