Junk food is an informal term for food that is of little nutritional value and often high in fat, sugar, and/or calories. Junk foods typically contain high levels of calories from sugar or fat with little protein, vitamins or minerals. Common junk foods include salted snack foods, gum, candy, sweet desserts, fried fast food, and soda.
Trans fats raise levels of the 'bad' blood fats - LDL cholesterol and triglycerides - that contribute to hardening of the arteries and fire up inflammation, an immune-system response that's involved in the build-up of fatty plaque in artery walls.
They also lower the 'good' HDL cholesterol that could mop it all up, and add to the abdominal fat that is most associated with diabetes and heart disease. Consuming just 5g of trans fat a day may raise your risk of heart attack by 25 per cent.
When it comes to stimulating our brains, Dr. Kessler noted, individual ingredients aren’t particularly potent. But by combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full.
"Participants with an elevated consumption of trans fats (fats present in artificial form in industrially produced pastries and fast food...) presented up to a 48 percent increase in the risk of depression when they were compared to participants who did not consume these fats," Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, said.
Cholesterol called oxycholesterol is virtually unknown to the public and may be the most serious cardiovascular health threat of all.
Fried and processed food, particularly fast food, contains high amounts of oxycholesterol. ...
"But the public should recognize that oxycholesterol is also important and cannot be ignored. Our work demonstrated that oxycholesterol boosts total cholesterol levels and promotes atherosclerosis ["hardening of the arteries"] more than non-oxidized cholesterol," the expert added.
A new study in rats suggests that high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in much the same way as cocaine and heroin. When rats consume these foods in great enough quantities, it leads to compulsive eating habits that resemble drug addiction, the study found.
Junk foods are high in sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure or hypertension. Although hypertension primarily affects adults, children who eat an unhealthy diet are also at risk of developing this condition. Around 3 percent of kids have hypertension, and while some cases are due to heart abnormalities, research indicates that high blood pressure is on the rise due to the increase in childhood obesity.
Lustig explains that the consumption of these "food-like substances" leads to an increase in chronic insulin levels, the fat-making or energy-storing hormone. We are thus consuming empty calories, ie foods that not only provide no nutritional value but are quickly converted to fat. As we have not used these calories in a meaningful way, we feel hungry again and so the cycle continues.
It is estimated that diet-related diseases are responsible for 35 million deaths worldwide, dwarfing smoking-related ones of 5 to 8 million. And while there have been tremendous advances in discouraging cigarette consumption, we haven't really started to act on obesity.
Fast foods increase your risk for weight gain, obesity and development of type 2 diabetes. Research by Mark Pereira, Ph.D., published in "Lancet" in 2005 discovered that fast food consumption is strongly associated with weight gain and insulin resistance and an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, respectively. The research found that a person who consumes fast foods at least twice per week gains an extra 4.5 kg of body weight and has a two-fold greater increase in insulin resistance than a person who consumes fast foods less than once per week. Insulin resistance is the diminished ability for your cells to bind to insulin in your blood to reduce sugar levels.
Even relatively clean-living Singaporeans who regularly eat burgers, fries and other staples of U.S.-style fast food are at raised risk of diabetes and significantly more likely than peers to die of heart disease, according to a new study.
Research in western populations has linked the most common components of fast foods - meats, saturated fats and refined carbs - with direct heart risks and indirect health threats like weight gain, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, Odegaard's team points out.