The short- and long-term effects of eating fast food

By Jessah Robinson, Adv Dip (Nut Med)

Fast foods more often than not are sources of empty calories, which means they provide a large number of calories with little to no nutritional value. Although, more and more fast food restaurants are now displaying the number of calories in their food items, this is only part of the consideration as to how healthful it is overall.

According to a study in Health Promotion Perspectives, fast food tends to contain substances considered unhealthful. Such foods are generally high in sugar, salt, saturated or trans fats, as well as many other preservatives and ingredients.

While not all fast food can be considered bad, even the more healthful fast food items tend to be high in sugar, salt, saturated fats and trans fats.

The short-term effects may include:

  • Increased hunger
    Studies have suggested that eating a high-sugar food first thing in the morning can make a person feel hungrier, as opposed to if they ate a low-sugar food. This makes sense because high-carb foods cause a rise in insulin (aka the hunger hormone), which ultimately causes you to feel hungrier within a shorter time frame. These types of foods also lack the necessary macronutrients to make you feel satisfied.
  • Water retention
    A study in the Journal of Hypertension found that consuming high levels of salt is linked to fluid retention. Magnesium has proven to cause significant reductions in the severity of symptoms of water retention.
  • Cravings for high-carb foods
    Because fast foods are so highly processed, they are rapidly broken down by the body and quickly stimulate the reward centres of the brain. This combination makes us have cravings for these types of stimulating, processed foods rather than fresh, quality foods. Tyrosine is an amino acid that stimulates the reward system of the brain to promote a happy stable mood, and is effective for reducing cravings for addictive foods.

The long-term effects include:

  • Higher risk of health conditions
    Because processed foods are often low in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, regularly eating them can be detrimental to your health. For instance, a low-fibre diet places you at higher risk of digestive conditions such as constipation, diverticular disease and dysbiosis (unhealthy balance of bad gut bacteria). Ultimate Gut Health combines high dose glutamine, nourishing fibres and a live probiotic to soothe and heal the entire length of the digestive tract. The overall risks of eating fast food include obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and various heart conditions.
  • Lowered immunity
    A typical Western diet consisting of foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat has a significant effect on immunity, causing increased inflammation, increased risk of infections, higher rates of cancer and increased risk of allergies and/or autoimmune diseases. See Dr Cabot’s book ‘Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation’.
  • Impaired cognitive function
    A study in the journal Appetite discovered a causal link between a diet high in saturated fat and simple carbohydrates, and a reduced capacity for memory and learning. A diet high in fast food can also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. See Dr Cabot’s book ‘Alzheimer’s: What you must know to protect your brain’.
  • Reduced cardiovascular function
    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggest that eating a diet high in salt often causes an increase in blood pressure, which makes a person more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, or heart disease. The FDA further note that a diet high in trans fats elevates LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). This makes a person more likely to develop heart disease. See Dr Cabot’s book ‘Cholesterol – The Real Truth’.
  • Obesity
    With fast food being both high in empty calories plus causing further cravings for carbohydrates, it’s no surprise that it can lead to obesity. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity increases a person’s risk of developing a range of serious health conditions. See Dr Cabot’s book ‘I Can’t Lose Weight and I Don’t Know Why’, which explains all the hidden causes of weight excess and what to do about it.
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