It is very rare for a person to 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 8 grams of saturated fat and 2 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 0 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?
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