Everyone knows fast food isn’t healthy. You don’t need us to tell you that.
But a recent animal study conducted at the University of Bonn revealed a startling truth about this guilty pleasure. And it’s so disturbing it may cause you to give up your fast food habit forever.
A steady diet of highly processed fast food won’t just cause you to gain weight. The new research reveals it also triggers an acute inflammatory response in the body that’s essentially identical to that of a bacterial infection.
In other words, your body sees the threat to your health as so dire your immune system kicks into high gear. And it ends up sending out the big guns it usually reserves for dangerous infections.
The REAL reason fast food raises heart risks
Your immune system then remains overly aggressive, driving up inflammation over the long term.
And once raised, researchers say there can be lasting consequences for those defenses. In fact, they could even play a key role in the development of arteriosclerosis (hardening of your arteries) and type 2 diabetes.
Even worse, long after switching to a healthy diet your body can remain stuck in defense mode. Which means it continues overreacting to perceived threats… even small ones… with a forceful inflammatory response. (More on this later.)
And your risk for heart attack and stoke can jump, as a result.
Fast food diet triggers a massive immune response
For the study, published in the journal Cell, researchers switched lab mice from their usual mouse chow to a typical fast food, “Western” style diet.1 And the results were shocking.
Within just 30 days, the high sugar and high junk-fat food had triggered a powerful, body-wide inflammatory response in the mice. The scientists were floored to see certain immune cells in the mice skyrocketing
Granulocytes and monocytes were surging through the critters blood, indicating that their bone marrow was mounting an intense immune response.
The researchers isolated and analyzed some of those cells on a genetic level. They found the fast food diet had switched on a number of genes, including ones responsible for making the cells rapidly multiply and mature.
In other words, the “Western” diet had caused their bodies to build the kind of huge and powerful army we usually see with an acute infection. The fast food was being treated like any other harmful substance that had to be stopped.
When the mice were given their regular chow once again, things still didn’t return to normal. After four weeks, the acute inflammation had gone away. But many of the activated genes remained switched on.
And the immune systems of the mice continued to overreact, triggering inflammation no matter how small the threat.
Ditch the fast food and fuel up with whole instead
We don’t know yet how long the negative effects of a steady diet of overly processed, fast foods lasts. More long term research is needed.
But one thing is already clear. Fast food can do far more long-term damage to your health than we ever imagined. And the sooner you swear off it the better.
Fast food restaurants are out, of course. But don’t forget to take a critical look at the overly processed, fast foods in your own kitchen.
Try doing a pantry purge to get some of the worst offenders. (Click here for a list of five of the worst offenders.)
Next switch to fresh, organic, whole ingredients and make your own meals at home instead. An old trick, but a good one, is to stick to the outside aisles in the supermarket as much as possible. That’s where you will find the fresh fruits and vegetables, organic grass-fed meats and dairy.
And to help with the chronic inflammation eating too much fast food may already have caused, try adding more inflammation battling foods to your diet. Click here for some ideas to get you started.
1. “Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming,” Cell, Volume 172, Issue 1, 162 – 175.e14