Archive for February 9th, 2013

Fast Food

Fast Food (Photo credit: SteFou!)

Typical junk-food meals contain lots of saturated fat—mostly from animal sources such as bacon, sausage, and hamburgers. These fats can have a negative effect on health. Most of us enjoy a juicy fast-food hamburger from time to time. Can you live without junk food? Unfortunately, you may not live as long with it.

According to two recent reports at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto, Canada, even one meal at your favorite fast-food place can damage arteries. Twenty-eight nonsmoking men consumed a Mediterranean-type diet of salmon, almonds, and vegetables cooked in olive oil. A week later, they consumed a sandwich of sausage, egg, and cheese with a side order of hash browns. Researchers checked the inner lining of blood vessels after each meal to determine the degree of artery dilation, which is closely correlated with risks for developing heart disease. Following the Mediterranean-type diet, arteries dilated normally to allow for good blood flow. Those with high triglyceride levels benefitted even more from the diet. Arteries of those eating the high-fat sandwich dilated 24 percent less than when they had not eaten.

In a similar study, participants consumed a fast-food type sandwich of ham, egg, and cheese with a total of 25 grams of fat and 450 calories. Even after two hours, the blood vessels were less efficient in dilation and blood flow. This study failed to compare the results with healthier choices. These two studies imply, but fail to show cause and effect, that foods high in fat, salt, or cholesterol may cause abnormality in blood vessels, a potential risk for developing heart disease.

Fast food may also be linked to asthma, hay fever, and eczema in children. Thirteen and fourteen year-old teenagers and six and seven year-old children from fifty-one countries who ate three or more fast-food meals per week had a thirty-nine percent and twenty percent, respectively, increased risk of asthma. However, fruits added to diets seemed to reduce the incidence and severity.

Added weight is another downside for frequent visits to fast-food restaurants. Of more than 3,000 participants aged eighteen to thirty, those who frequented fast-food places more than twice a week compared to less than once a week gained an extra ten pounds over a fifteen year period and showed an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Does this mean you must give up junk food forever? Science isn’t that exact. To patronize your favorite fast-food hangout and eat healthier, consider the following suggestions.
 Pizza. Get less cheese. Choose low-fat toppings such as vegetables.
 Breads. Select whole grain bread and bagels instead of high-fat croissants and biscuits.
 Hamburgers. Get only one patty. Omit cheese and sauce. Order extra lettuce, tomato, and other veggies. Choose grilled, baked, roasted or broiled meat, fish or chicken.
 French Fries. Order a small serving. Better yet, substitute a salad.
 Salads. Avoid high-calorie additions like cheese, croutons, or bacon. Use low-calorie dressings or vinegar.
 Order small meals, split with a friend, or ask for a “to go” carton.

While fast-food fare can have a negative effect on heart-health, simply changing to more nutritious choices and limiting your number of visits to these sites can help you live longer.

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