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Ill effects of fast food on health

Updated on June 27, 2015

In the fast paced life of ours, we don’t have time to prepare and enjoy food like the olden days. Everyone tries to grab a bite whenever and wherever they can in order to ensure that there will be more free hours to do something else. This has resulted in sharp rise in global consumption of fast food. Apart from the convenience and easy availability of the fast food, it doesn’t offer us any other benefit. Sometimes it taxes hard our pocket but most of us don’t realize that it can cause heavy damage to the health. Or even if we know this fact, we are tempted to consume fast food for individual reasons.

Nevertheless, the consumption of fast food causes harmful effects on our health in the following ways –

  • Predisposes to insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes - Many fast foods and drinks are loaded with carbohydrates and, consequently, have more calories. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar, which is released into bloodstream. The pancreas responds by releasing insulin to transport sugar to cells throughout the body. With everything working in sync, blood sugar levels stay within a normal range. When we take in high amounts of carbs, it causes a spike in the blood sugar, which can alter the normal insulin response. Frequent spikes in blood sugar may be a contributing factor in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Trans fats may also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Predisposes to cardiovascular disease - Trans fats, often found in fast food, are known to raise LDL cholesterol levels. That’s the undesirable kind of cholesterol. Trans fats can also lower HDL cholesterol, which is the good cholesterol. According to a study, which was published online in the journal Circulation by the American Heart Association (AHA), people, who consumed fast food even as little as once a week, increased their risk of developing coronary heart disease by 20 percent compared to those, who never touched it. The rate jumped to 50 percent for those, who indulged two to three times per week, and to 80 percent for those, who went beyond that.
  • Raises blood pressure – Too much salt in the fast food can raise blood pressure, putting people at risk for heart problem. According to the American Heart Association, children who have a high-sodium diet are at twice the risk for developing high blood pressure than children on a low-sodium diet. In fact, children form a major group of people, who consume more fast food than others.
  • Causes obesity – In actual fact, it has been found that fast food consumption has the largest impact on obesity levels. A study published in January 2004 in “The Lancet” showed that over a 15-year period, young adults who ate fast food more than twice a week gained an additional 10 pounds compared to those eating it less than once a week. One meal from a fast food restaurant typically contains the amount of calories an individual needs for the entire day. Therefore, those, who consume more fast food, are also more likely to develop obesity related health issues.
  • Lack of essential nutrients - A well-balanced food contains all essential elements which are necessary for human development. Since fast food lacks essential nutrients in adequate quantities, it is likely to cause disorders due to deficiency of essential nutrients in those, who consume fast food too much.
  • Causes liver damage - It has been found that liver damage is a significant risk associated with consuming fast food. Though there are no human studies, animal studies have shown that there is a positive relationship between increased consumption of trans fat and liver inflammation. Furthermore, high fructose corn syrup may indirectly predispose someone to fatty liver infiltration by creating an adverse metabolic profile.
  • Causes metabolic syndrome - Trans fatty acids are implicated in the causation of metabolic syndrome because they are associated with an increase in inflammatory processes, triglycerides, and cholesterol as well as a reduction in HDL (good) cholesterol. An increase in all these along with some other factors constitutes metabolic syndrome. But trans fat consumption is modifiable dietary risk factor for metabolic syndrome as well as for diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease.
  • Nausea and vomiting – Fast food containing MSG (monosodium glucamate) may cause headache, nausea and vomiting in persons who are sensitive to the chemical. Some other short-term, transient, and generally mild symptoms, such as numbness, flushing, tingling, palpitations, and drowsiness may occur in some sensitive individuals who consume more of MSG. However, a typical serving of a food with added MSG contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG.
  • Affects memory – A recent study published by Dr. Beatrice Golomb, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine showed that younger men, who ate high levels of trans fats, performed more poorly on a memory test involving word recall than those who ate lower levels. Besides causing inflammation, trans fats might also inhibit the body's production of omega 3 fatty acids, which play a crucial role in brain function. Trans fats might also reduce level of serotonin in a person. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, appetite and sleep, and also plays a role in brain function.

Conclusion -

Many countries, including Iceland, Kazakhstan, Bermuda, Montenegro, Yemen, have imposed partial or total ban on the consumption of fast foods by some particular global giants. In spite of imposition of ban, the regulating authorities have to ensure that the ban should be strictly implemented. If it is the partial ban, it is the responsibility of food regulating authorities in different countries to check various ingredients in the fast food so as to prevent their use in more than permissible quantities, which may be detrimental to the health of the consumers.

Even in places like Brazil, where the government has made serious efforts to limit access to fast food in schools and residential areas to protect the public’s health, especially of children, the rates of diabetes and heart disease are going up. Apparently, even some of the most stringent existing regulations don’t suffice.

In the developing countries in Asia, South and Southeast Asia, the global fast food chains contribute largely to their economic growth. According a newly released study by the University of Michigan (UM), the growing preference for Western-style fast food in Asian and Southeast Asian countries shows an adverse impact on health of their populations.

Actually, need of the hour is that a good balance be struck between the growth of the economy of the country and the health of its citizens. Otherwise, the negative economic impact due to the dramatic rise of diseases, resulting in increase of costs of their treatment and poor health of citizens by the consumption of fast food, will eventually have negative influence on general economic growth of the country.


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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for your valuable comments. I support your views.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      You made a very alarming point here: Negative economic impact and the poor health of citizens due to the consumption of fast food, that will eventually have a negative influence on our country as well. Fast foods are killing more people than anything else!

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for liking my hub.

    • Eric Flynn profile image

      Eric Wayne Flynn 2 years ago from Providence, Rhode Island

      Voted up and Useful.


    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for liking and sharing my hub with your readers.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 2 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      I have been maintaining a well balanced diet for a while now. It was very hard because I not only enjoy fast-food but it's quick and easy. When I discovered I had tumors, I had to eat more green leafy vegetables for my iron. I allow myself the occasional fast food here and there but that's it. Voted up- useful and interesting. Plus I'm going to share I believe this is very important and want to share this with my readers.