How Fast Food Impacts Your Body
📸 by Emmy Smith on Unsplash
According to research from the University of Bonn in Germany, eating fast food is like giving your body a bacterial infection.
The obesity rate in the U.S. is a major health issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have obesity. This is largely due to unhealthy diets and lifestyles; the Standard American Diet (SAD) is typically composed of heavy, highly-refined carbohydrates and sugar.
Numerous studies have shown that the rise in obesity rates could be attributed to an increase in calorie intake, coupled with a lack of adequate physical activity.
The Institute of Innate Immunity at the University of Bonn in Germany reports that the immune system reacts similarly to a high-fat and high-calorie diet as to bacterial infection. Unhealthy food seems to make the body’s defenses more aggressive in the long term; even after switching to a healthy diet, “inflammation towards innate immune stimulation is more pronounced.”
Scientists placed mice on a “western diet” for a month – high in fat, high in sugar, and low in fiber. The animals developed a strong inflammatory response throughout the body, almost like after an infection. Anette Christ posdoctoral lead in the study reports, “The unhealthy diet led to an unexpected increase in the number of certain immune cells in the blood of the mice. This was an indication for an involvement of immune cell progenitors in the bone marrow.” When researchers offered the rodents their typical cereal diet for another four weeks, the acute inflammation disappeared. What did not disappear was the genetic reprogramming of the immune cells and their precursors – “even after these four weeks, many of the genes that had been switched on during the fast food phase were still active.”
Director of the Institute, Prof. Dr. Eicke Latz, explains, “After an infection, the body’s defenses remain in a kind of alarm state, so they can respond more quickly to a new attack.”
What Too Much Fast Food Means for Your Body (and Your Wallet)
Inflammatory responses can accelerate the development of vascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Researchers report that individuals born today will live on average, shorter lives than their parents – “Unhealthy diets and too little exercise likely play a decisive role in this.”
According to the Food Institute’s analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennial’s alone spend 44% of their budget’s food dollars on eating out. In comparison to 40 years ago, the average American family now spend half their food budget on restaurant food.
While the occasional night out won’t hurt, a habit of eating fast food can do a number on your health, according to Healthline. –
- Eating foods with high amounts of sodium can lead to regular headaches and increase your risk of depression.
- Carbohydrates have also been found to trigger acne and lead to breakouts.
- The sugar and carbohydrates in fast food produce acids that can destroy tooth enamel, leading to dental cavities.
- Elevated cholesterol and increase blood pressure are two of the top risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
- High levels of calories and sugar can lead to weight gain.
- Fast food is filled with empty carbohydrates that can cause frequent insulin spikes, altering your body’s natural insulin response.
Reversing The Effects of Fast Food
Some studies have shown that you can reverse the damage brought on by too much fast food by changing your diet and getting more exercise. Make healthier substitutes slowly; think: sweet potato fries instead of french fries or having 2% milk instead of whole milk. Be sure to have your cholesterol checked by your doctor. If it is high, follow a high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week. You should also get your BMI checked. If it is above 25 and you’re overweight, speak with your doctor on your weight loss options. Joyce Lee, M.D., MPH, says losing even 5% of your body weight can lower your risk of diabetes.