The Immediate Impact Of Junk Food On Your Cells

junk food

I doubt that it comes as a complete surprise to anyone that junk food is bad for your health. However, the speed in which it can cause damage just might. This is a good reminder that every good decision you make matters. Why?

Alarming new research by the University of Illinois is showing the near-immediate impact on blood vessels at the cellular level when veering away from a healthy diet and instead opting for junk food. They warn that eating processed foods over even a short period can trigger hardening of the arteries by rapidly changing their structure, showing industrially produced products more harmful to health than previously feared. 

State-of-the-art scanning techniques of human cells by the University of Illinois team showed junk food caused the cell membrane to stiffen and thicken compared to those not given lipoproteins.

Co-author Dr Manuela Ayee, of the University of Illinois, said:

To our surprise, a very small amount of oxidized LDL dramatically changes the structure of the cell membrane for the worse.

Oxidized low density lipoproteins are a variant of LDL that are produced by damaging chemicals called free radicals and are believed to contribute to the build up of plaques that can lead to clots – blocking off blood supply to the heart and brain. The latest finding backs up recent evidence suggesting oxidized LDL is a key player in arteriosclerosis.

How Does LDL Become Oxidized?

  • Cooking with polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s). PUFA’s are highly unstable and therefore easily oxidized (i.e. become unstable, go rancid, become toxic). Canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and corn oil, are all classified as polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Eating processed foods (even from the health food stores) that contain bad oils (PUFA’s). These oils were not only damaged during their own processing, but were then damaged further when processed into whatever food they’re in.
  • A diet high in hydrogenated oils. Food manufacturers hydrogenate liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid and shelf stable. In partial hydrogenation, the resulting fats are semi-solid at room temperature. In full hydrogenation, the oils become completely solid. Soy, peanut, corn, palm, sunflower, canola, and cottonseed oils are often partially or fully hydrogenated. As of June, 2018, manufacturers were no longer allowed by the FDA to add partially hydrogenated oils to packaged foods due to health concerns from trans fats. (The compliance date was later extended to January, 2020, so you’ll still need to keep an eye out for those!)
  • Smoking.
  • Toxins — both from the environment or from your food (ex. preservatives, additives, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.).
  • Poorly controlled blood sugar from insulin resistance (metabolic syndrome), type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

One last thought to keep in mind… anytime you eat at a restaurant, you’re almost guaranteed that you’re consuming some of the oils mentioned above. There are very few (if any) that will use healthier, more expensive oils/fats. So, as long as you’re including restaurant foods on a regular basis, this could be an issue.

This study on the effect of junk food on your health gives new meaning to the phrase “you are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake!”

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