A Caution About Dining Out After the Pandemic

The Lempert Report
April 02, 2021

We all are anxious to get back to our normal schedules and lives and that includes eating out.

The National Restaurant Association reports that over 110,000 restaurants have been permanently closed due to the pandemic, which has decimated the foodservice industry. We want to support our local eateries – but a new report might make us think twice before heading out to dine in. Investigators analyzed data from responses to questionnaires administered during face-to-face household interviews from 35,084 adults aged 20 years or older who participated in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey 1999-2014. Respondents reported their dietary habits including frequency of eating meals prepared away from home. These investigators looked at the association between eating out and risk of death and concluded that eating out very frequently is significantly associated with an increased risk of all-cause death, which warrants further investigation. Their results appear in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The report goes on to state that although some restaurants provide high-quality foods, the dietary quality for meals away from home, especially from fast-food chains, is usually lower compared with meals cooked at home. Evidence has shown that meals away from home tend to be higher in energy density, fat, and sodium, but lower in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protective nutrients such as dietary fiber and antioxidants. “Emerging, although still limited, evidence suggests that eating out frequently is associated with increased risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes and biomarkers of other chronic diseases,” explained lead investigator Wei Bao, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA. “However, little is known about the association between eating meals away from home and risk of mortality.

During 291,475 person-years of follow-up, 2,781 deaths occurred, including 511 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 638 deaths from cancer. After adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, dietary and lifestyle factors, and body mass index, the hazard ratio of mortality among participants who ate meals prepared away from home very frequently (two meals or more per day) compared with those who seldom ate meals prepared away from home (fewer than one meal per week) found

that frequent consumption of meals prepared away from home is significantly associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality. “The take-home message is that frequent consumption of meals prepared away from home may not be a healthy habit. Instead, people should be encouraged to consider preparing more meals at home,” concluded the investigators.