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Easy- Peasy Fast Food and Your Immune System

Important Points:

  • Fast food
  • Immune system
  • Inflammation
  • Healthy eating

Easy- Peasy Fast Food and Your Immune System

Bad habits are easy to pick up but very difficult to undo. This could be anything including binge eating, drinking too much booze, over- or under-sleeping, and eating too much junk food. It is now emerging that fast foods will not just make you overweight and obese but also have the potential to damage your immune system.

Study Shows that Fast Food Plays a Role in Inflammation

A recent study that was carried out by the University of Bonn linked fast food with an overdrive of the immune system leading to inflammation. The study further connected the inflammatory response to chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. The study concluded that fast food makes the immune system more aggressive in the long term, and even after a change to a healthy diet, the body’s defenses remain hyperactive.

Details of the study

This was a lab study where the investigators placed mice on a fast-food diet for a month which was high in fat, high in sugar, and low in fiber. It was observed that the animals developed a strong inflammatory response throughout the body, similar to what happens following an infection. The mice also developed an increase in the number of certain immune cells called granulocytes and monocytes indicating that progenitor cells in the bone marrow were involved.

When the investigators offered the mice their typical cereal diet for the next month the inflammation subsided. However, they observed that something key did not change: the programming of the progenitor cells. The genes that had been switched on during the fast food phase were still active and capable of triggering inflammation. The innate immune system has a memory which “records” such changes and stores them. This may also explain why overweight children are more likely to become obese in adulthood than their slimmer counterparts.

Long term effects of Wrong Nutrition

Wrong nutrition can cause severe long term consequences. Once you get hooked on fast foods, your body’s immune system is set on overdrive. This is likely to initiate a process of acute, then chronic inflammation, and even after you switch to healthier meals, your immune system may not be able to readjust. This means that you will still be prone to an immune system overdrive and the risk for chronic inflammation which has been linked to heart disease and stroke as well as autoimmune diseases. Currently, researchers are also trying to establish the link between chronic inflammation and cancer.

Fast foods are also notoriously linked to obesity and food addiction disorders. The high fat and high salt content may be responsible for the addictive qualities. One review published in NCBI suggested that fast foods cause psychological dependence and obesity over time. The study mentioned that most fast foods are usually accompanied by soda which increases the sugar content 10-fold. Fast foods are high in calories but low in fiber and nutritive value.

10 Tips on How to Dump Fast Foods and Acquire Healthy Eating Habits

  1. Make mealtimes fun for the kids. You can achieve this by involving them in the preparation of the menu and food as well. Teach kids the different nutrients derived from each meal and let them plan out their own meals based on nutritive value. Make sure the food is always presented in an enticing way and the portions are appropriate for age.
  2. Choose whole grains as a source of carbs such as whole wheat bread, rye bread, brown rice, popcorn, oatmeal, and whole grain cereal. It may take some time before the kids get used to this, but in the end, it will be worth every effort.
  3. Go for unsaturated fats such as canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame and sunflower oils in place of butter and saturated fats.
  4. When choosing protein sources, go for chicken, fish, and beans that are healthier options. Remove the skin of the chicken before preparing to make it healthier. Limit red meat to once a week.
  5. When buying packaged foods, make sure to read the labels carefully. Go for the ones that are abundant in fiber, minerals, and vitamins and limit those with sodium, added sugars, saturated fat, and trans fat.
  6. Eat at home as often as you can. This will give you more control over the ingredients as well as portion sizes and servings.
  7. Make sure that fresh fruits and vegetables are well displayed in the kitchen and living rooms so they are visible and accessible to family members. It is easy for family members to pick up healthy eating habits when they really don’t have to go out of their way to find healthy foods.
  8. Incorporate oily fish in your diet including fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and trout which are high in omega 3 oils.
  9. Find healthy ways to cook meals such as steaming, baking, and grilling as opposed to frying. Avoid adding extra oil, salt, or sugars to your recipes to make them more enticing.
  10. Consult with a nutritionist or dietician when and where you need help. Adopting and implementing a healthy eating plan for your family is not easy, but with the right support, you are sure to succeed.

References

1.   NCBI (2011): Is fast food addictive? Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21999689

2.  Cell (2017): Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming. Retrieved from https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(17)31493-9?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0092867417314939%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

3.  Live Science (2018): What Is Inflammation? Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/52344-inflammation.html