Fast food is enticing and popular despite the fact that we know it is not an ideal choice for our health and well-being.
Fast Food’s Effects on Brains
A fast food diet has many risks and effects on our bodies in a relatively short period of time. When we eat junk foods, the reward circuits within our brains activate and release the chemical dopamine. Our brains can become overwhelmed by the pleasure from these rewarding foods and in response, the brain adapts and makes more receptors for dopamine; an important chemical that promotes happiness and an overall feeling of well-being. Dopamine also supports the cognitive function, the learning capacity, alertness, motivation and memory. For susceptible people, they will experience withdrawal symptoms associated with depression and anxiety when they stop consuming them.
Another new study found that eating fast food is related to the shrinkage of the brain that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers suspect that just as the trans fats regularly found in fast food harden the arteries and impair heart function, they hurt the brain as well. They make your brain more sluggish, affect reflexes and the quality of brain responses. The chemicals in the food also affect the behaviour and cognitive functioning among children, resulting in hyperactivity.
Researchers have also found that high-saturated fats, high-salt, high-sugar fast food diet can quickly undermine your brain’s appetite control in a week. It changes the behaviour of the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that tells us when we are full. When we have eaten our fill, the hippocampus suppresses our desires to eat. However, eating too much fast food such as fries, pizza, burgers and fizzy drinks, affect this neurological appetite, resulting it to stop working. As a result, people overeat and lead to adverse health outcome such as obesity.
Fast Food & Early Deaths
Fast food is inexpensive, convenient and tasty but is often made with cheaper ingredients that do not provide nourishment essential for our maintenance of life and growth. High fat meat, refined grains, added sugar, sodium and fats, chemicals, addictives, artificial flavourings, preservatives are used instead of nutritious fresh ingredients such as lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. There is also a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in fast foods which is important for health as we need them in our diets to improve brain’s functions and development, lower blood pressure, slow down the development of plaque in the arteries, reduce heart attack and stroke.
A single fast-food meal can actually exceed 2,300 milligrams of sodium and too much sodium causes your body to retain water, making you feel bloated and puffy. According to Harvard Medical School, excessive salt can also result in an enlarged heart muscle, contributing to a dangerous buildup of fluid in patients who have congestive heart failure. A high sodium intake is also responsible for kidney stones, kidney disease and osteoporosis. One Big Mac has 970 mg of sodium, well over one-third of the daily recommended allowance.
Dietary fiber (commonly found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) plays a dominant role in the digestive system. Fiber is essential to keep your digestive tract working properly as it ushers wastes out of the body. It can help lower cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels normal. Unfortunately, most fast foods do not contain high dietary fiber contents.
Loaded with Calories/Sugar/Fats/Chemicals
A lot of food in fast-food restaurants will start your day off on the wrong foot with their high calories. The high calories in fast food can lead to repeated spikes in the blood sugar and a dangerous crash when blood sugar dips into hypoglycemic levels. That is when you can experience anxiety, trembling, confusion, and fatigue. Frequent soda intake can also lead to poor oral health as it increases the amount of acid in your mouth, which eventually causes tooth decay and cavities.
The iconic McFlurry at McDonald’s, with a sweet ice cream base and even more sugar mixed in, clocks in at a whopping 86 grams of sugar, almost as much as seven McDonald’s apple pies! One large fries will set you back more than 500 calories, more than a double cheeseburger and the hotcakes meal packs almost your entire day’s worth of sugar.
At fast food chains, ‘crispy’ means ‘breaded with sugar and fried in fat’. Deep fried patties, made with fattening buttermilk and topped with a heaping scoop of mayo dressing, gives one more fat than three slices of Domino’s cheese pizza, and more sugar than a glazed donut.
On the other hand, the grilled chicken in fast food does not mean they are healthier as they are cooked at high temperatures, producing char marks which cause cancer. Sodium nitrate is also used to maintain meat color and to inhibit bacterial growth. Both chemicals can break down into nitrosamines, substances with the potential to cause cancer.
Some oils are dangerous when heated to high temperatures over time as they release toxic compounds. Consumption of repeated heated oil may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, osteoporosis, affect liver and kidney structure and function. In fast-food restaurants, deep fryers are kept hot and active the entire day as cooking oil is reused in food preparation to save costs.
Trans fats in fast food cause a series of problems, from heart-related issues to elevated cholesterol and obesity. They also increase the risk of stroke as they clog the body’s workings akin to sand messes with the mechanism of a clock.
Phthalates, a class of endocrine-disrupting chemical toxins which are used to line plastic food and beverage packaging such as burger boxes, wrappers, disposable bowls, and bags for french fries, sides, and desserts, is found to increase levels of inflammation.
Fast food has too much adverse effects on our health so make healthy choices with your meals and snacks by choosing whole and fresh food instead of fast food. Eat well to live well.