Thursday, November 29, 2012

Junk Food = Junk Arteries

We already know that a fairly steady diet of processed foods—including fast foods or junk foods—can harm your health. It’s no wonder, either, because they’re packed with unhealthy fats, carbs, sugars and more that can mess up blood sugar, blood pressure, your cells, metabolism and much more.

What may be surprising, however, is that infrequently eating junk food—even one single meal—can be detrimental to your health, too, including your arteries. In fact, a team of researchers from the University of Montreal in Canada published study results in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology which point out that eating a single junk food meal full of unhealthy fats is harmful to the arteries. In fact, the researchers found that a single junk food meal can decrease blood vessel elasticity by nearly 25 percent and increase heart attack risk. By contrast—and interestingly—consumption of a meal rich in good fats doesn't cause any arterial damage.

Here’s how the study went:  28 healthy, non-smoking men ate a Mediterranean-type meal—filled with salmon, almonds and veggies with olive oil—and ten were fed a conventional, processed, junk food-type meal one week later which consisted of sausage, an egg, a slice of processed cheese and three hash browns. Each of the participants had an ultrasound at two-to-four hour intervals after eating to observe endothelial function.

You can read about the study by clicking here.

The endothelium, by the way, is the critical inner lining of arteries that regulates the elasticity of blood vessels and rushes oxygenated blood to the cardiac muscle. Elevated and oxidized LDL cholesterol and triglycerides from junk food makes the endothelium unstable, while increased blood pressure can cause micro cracks that allow accumulation of foamy plaque that burst—leading to a heart attack.

Just two hours after the junk food meal, the study participants’ arteries dilated 24 percent less than they did prior to the junk food meal. Then, after the participants ate their Mediterranean-type meal, the arteries dilated normally and maintained good blood flow.

Dr. Anil Nigam, the study leader, said, “These results will positively alter how we eat on a daily basis. Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis. It is now something to think about at every meal.”

I agree. Every meal counts when it comes to health.

This is just one of many studies that show that even small dietary “indiscretions” can result in potentially lethal consequences and can directly and significantly increase heart attack risk—and that junk foods can do more harm—and do it more quickly—than most people might realize.

Heart and Stroke foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson sums it up, saying, “This study reminds us that our behaviors are the backbone of preventing heart disease. Remember that whether you eat at home or go to restaurant, you’re still in charge of what you eat.”

There you have it. Junk food = junk arteries—even after only one meal.

Now you know that even one junk food meal can have detrimental effects, so stay away from it. Instead, stick with foods that continually bring you health.