Fast Food's Immediate Damage To Your Health

Your Arteries On A Single Fast Food Order
cheese burger american cheese ...
cheese burger american cheese ...

By Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D. for

It's pretty doubtful that a person would sit in the drive-thru line of a fast-food chain and order a well-balanced meal, full of fiber and nutrients. People in the drive-thru line are there because they are willing to compromise healthfulness for convenience and taste, which at the time seems worth the trade.

For a long time, it appeared that the price that you pay for eating fast food occurred not at the cash register, but down the road, when the health ramifications associated with meals high in saturated fat and sodium took effect. But what if I told you that the consequences of eating your combo meal begin almost immediately after you crumble the wrapper of your burger? What if every time you enter a fast food restaurant, you exit a little unhealthier and a little less attractive? Would the juicy double bacon cheeseburger be worth it?

Researchers and health professionals have long been aware of the consequences associated with eating fast food, but until now, no one realized how quickly the damage begins. A new study, published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, indicates that damage to the arteries occurs almost immediately after just one -- that’s right, one -- junk food-type meal. Based on the science, moderation with junk food doesn’t really exist.

The study compared the effects of a junk food meal and a Mediterranean based meal on the inner lining of the blood vessels. They tested this impact on 28 healthy, non-smoking men between 18 and 50 years old. The men were fed a Mediterranean-based meal -- with eight grams of saturated fat and two grams of omega-3 fatty acids -- which consisted of salmon, almonds and vegetables baked in olive oil. One week later, the subjects consumed 15 grams of saturated fat and zero grams of omega-3s from a fast food sausage, egg and cheese muffin sandwich and three hash browns.

The researchers collected their data by measuring the men’s endothelial function -- the ability of the blood vessels to dilate -- after a 12-hour fast and again two and four hours after finishing each meal. The results were not pretty! Almost immediately after eating one fast food sausage, egg and cheese sandwich, the men’s arteries dilated 24 percent less than when the subjects were in a fasted state. Poor endothelial function is a significant precursor of atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries that can block blood flow.

This study provides evidence that endothelial function declines after consuming only one junk food meal. With that in mind, can you imagine the arterial damage from consistently consuming one fast food egg muffin every day? Isn’t it time we assess the true “value” of that value meal?

Not only is it important for you to eat pretty, but the same also holds true for children. A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that children and adolescents both consume more calories and fewer nutrients the rest of the day after eating at fast food or full-service restaurants. On days that kids ate fast food, compared to days that they ate at home, adolescents and young children consumed an additional 309 and 126 calories, respectively. The study also found that eating at full-service restaurants increased children’s average intake of sugar, total fat, saturated fat and sodium. Based on the current evidence, there is a strong correlation that exists between eating out, consuming more calories and fewer nutrients and an increased risk of childhood obesity and chronic disease.

Want to improve your health and beauty and the wellbeing of your family? Steer clear of fast food restaurants and start redefining your family’s idea of fast food. Make your own version of “fast food” by preparing quick snacks and meals that you can grab on the go. Give your food pantry a beauty makeover by simply making healthy foods -- such as fruits, vegetable, nuts and whole grain snacks -- more convenient and readily accessible. Enhancing the convenience of healthy food reduces your desire to reach for the bad stuff, while allowing your family to continue living vivaciously and of course, beautifully.

Brigid Titgemeier, B.A., contributed to this article.

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