There is plenty of evidence for the various adverse physical health effects of junk food, short-term and long-term. While many fast outlets now list the calorie and macronutrient content of menu items, there is more to healthy food than its calorie content.
Eating junk food delivers poor nutritional value. This review of fast food studies shows that junk food is high in sugar and salt. Junk food is also typically laden with trans fats, the unhealthy saturated fats you should avoid. Beyond this, most fast food lacks some key nutrients.
According to the Department of Health and Social Services (HHS) of the US, many US citizens consume too much fast food.
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Why Is Fast Food Bad for Mental Health?
There is an association between your diet and your emotions due to the closely interrelated nature of your brain and your GI tract – the gastrointestinal tract is sometimes called the second brain.
The GI tract contains billions of bacteria and these impact the production of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers continuously relaying signals between your gut and your brain. Besides, Serotonin and dopamine are two of the most common examples, both associated with mood.
Now, when you eat lots of healthy, whole foods, this encourages good bacteria to grow, positively influencing the production of neurotransmitters. Steadily consuming junk food, by contrast, can trigger inflammation and hinder the production of neurotransmitters. When neurotransmitter levels are imbalanced, this can affect your mood.
How Fast Food Impacts Mental Health
Loaded with sugar, salt, and saturated fats, junk food can trigger the following outcomes adverse for mental health:
- Spikes in blood sugar levels
- Junk food can induce the jitters
- Fast food can encourage binge eating
- Too much junk food can increase anxiety and depression in some people
- A poor-quality diet can impair memory and learning
1) Spikes in blood sugar levels
When you eat fast food, this breaks down quickly, leading to a swift spike in blood sugar. This occurs due to the added sugar and the refined carbs. Research shows that this causes an abnormally large surge of insulin, along with a corresponding drop in blood sugar.
Not only will these spikes and troughs in blood sugar levels leave you feeling hungry within a short time of eating, but you are also likely to feel energy levels dipping, as well as your mood.
2) Junk food can induce the jitters
If you consume lots of junk food, you may find you feel jittery. This is due to the glut of preservatives and artificial colorings, especially sodium benzoate.
A study published in Clinical Pediatrics shows that preservatives and artificial coloring can deliver a jagged sugar rush, often followed by a crash.
3) Fast food can encourage binge eating
Most fast food is extremely palatable. It seldom needs much chewing, and the body metabolizes this type of food rapidly. Resultantly, the reward centers in your brain are also activated quickly
As your palate becomes more accustomed to processed foods that deliver rapid rewards, your desire for healthy whole foods is liable to wane.
This study shows an association between consuming junk food and developing an addiction to low-nutrient foods.
Another small study suggests that even one day of overeating high-fat foods can trigger cycles of binge eating, and possibly even binge eating disorders. Avoid this before you end up requiring treatment in a Huntington Beach rehab.
4) Too much fast food can increase anxiety and depression in some people
Eating too much junk food can make you more prone to depression, according to some research.
This Spanish study illustrates a link between depression and eating commercial baked goods and junk food like hotdogs, hamburgers, or pizza. Researchers found that consumers of junk food were over 50% more likely to develop depression than participants who ate little or no junk food.
5) A poor quality diet can impair memory and learning
A 2020 study indicates a possible link between a fast-food diet and impaired memory and learning. Eating a diet high in simple carbs and saturated fats can also heighten the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s