Who here loves fast food? That’s a stupid question, of course you do. The real question is, who doesn’t? There aren’t many things in life that beat a juicy burger, fries and a milkshake on a casual date or a massive pizza for one on a night in (sometimes, both on the same night).
Whether you like it or not though, the fast food you eat can have a huge impact on your body, both in the time it takes you to finish your meal, and in the future when you’re wrinkly and wondering why it’s so difficult to get up a flight of stairs.
If you feel as if you don’t get enough sleep, drink too much booze or just find yourself just stressed in general, these everyday hang-ups could be the result of that you eat. The worst culprit of all? You guessed it – fast food. And it turns out the more you eat fast food, the more in danger your immune system is.
A recent study out of the University of Bonn suggests that a typical “Western diet” (a lot of red meat, sugar, and saturated fat and not much fiber – essentially every fast food meal you’ve eaten ever) can kick the immune system into overdrive, causing inflammation.
The study published in the journal Cell, goes on to connect the inflammatory response you go through when eating fast food to serious conditions like cardiovascular disease (which includes strokes or heart attacks) and Type 2 diabetes. Even if the inflammatory response to eating fast food doesn’t cause these diseases, your chance of suffering from them is still high when on the Western diet.
Researchers (led by Eicke Latz, MD, PhD, director of the Institute for Innate Immunity of the University of Bonn in Germany) placed mice on a Western diet and observed that after only one month, the mice had an inflammatory response akin to that triggered by a serious bacterial infection.
The experiment had shown a notable increase the number immune cells in the mice’s blood. Talking to the press, the researchers said: “Fast food thus causes the body to quickly recruit a huge and powerful army (of disease-fighting cells).” What’s even worse is that the immune response to the fast food was discovered to be irreversible.
When scientists fed the mice a healthier diet for another month, the acute inflammation subsided, but genetic testing revealed permanent changes to the immune system. Dr. Latz from the study explains this is because “the innate immune system has a form of memory.”
Dr. Latz continues: “After an infection [or in the case of the mice, exposure to fast food], the body’s defenses remain in a kind of alarm state, so that they can respond more quickly to a new attack.”Although the precise mechanism behind this process remains to be determined, Dr. Latz sees the research results as a warning, especially for parents of young kids.
Scientists suggest nutrition should play a more prominent role in early childhood education. We could also soon see limits put on the amount of fast food we eat at restaurants too. Will this be enough to keep us healthy? Only time will tell.