Research by the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany found so-called “healthy” fast food alternatives to have the same effect on the cardiovascular system as standard fast food meals.
Twenty-four healthy volunteers with an average age of 32 years, ate one of three fast food meals during one week, a different meal the second week, and the remaining meal the third week. The fast food meals consisted of:
1. Beef burger, fries, ketchup, lemon-flavored carbonated drink
2. Vegetarian burger, fries, ketchup, lemon-flavored carbonated drink
3. Vegetarian burger, salad, fruit, yogurt, orange juice
Surprisingly, according to lead investigator Dr. Tanja K. Rudolph, endothelial function was adversely affected within 2 to 4 hours after eating any of these three meals, with no statistically significant differences between them.
All three meals also had negative impact on other cardiovascular disease markers.
Endothelial cells line the inside of your blood vessels. These cells control blood flow by regulating the dilation of the blood vessels. When these endothelial cells are impaired, it can lead to high blood pressure or atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries), which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
According to Dr. Rudolph, "You can not prevent the harmful effects of fast food to the vascular system if you only add 'healthy components.'”
Although these researchers claim surprise, there’s really no surprise here.
Fast food restaurants are not in the business of serving organic, wholesome, nutrition-dense foods at dirt-cheap prices. But, that’s what you need if you’re aiming for optimal health. You may not necessarily get it dirt cheap, but you can eat healthy, even if you’re on a budget. And if you figure in what you’ll spend on health care once your health has been neglected, eating organic suddenly seems like the least expensive option.
I do applaud fast food restaurants for their efforts in the past couple of years, to move their wares in a more healthy direction. However, they are still clearly missing the mark.
Researchers have found that eating fast food just twice a week could double your chances of developing insulin resistance, which often leads to full-blown diabetes, while packing on 10 extra pounds.
The absolute best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to take control of your kitchen and the food being prepared in it. If you want to get or stay healthy, learning to prepare your own food is one of the best prescriptions out there. Exchanging convenience for your health is a very lopsided “bargain.”
If you're thinking that you truly don't have the time to do this, don't miss my past article, Six Easy Ways to Get Better Nutrition Even if You Don't Have the Time. And if cooking whole food from scratch sounds too daunting, Colleen Huber has written a wonderful article on how to do it without quitting your day job.
When you take fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients, and eat the foods that are the most beneficial for your nutritional type, the results can be truly remarkable.
The Danger of Ignoring High Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the main ingredient in most soft drinks, and is one of the most commonly used sweeteners in processed food products (including fruit juices like orange juice) in general. The only way to avoid it is by focusing your diet on whole foods and, if you do purchase packaged foods, become an avid label reader.
High-fructose corn syrup increases your triglyceride levels and your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Even though they don’t specify all the ingredients in the three fast food meals provided during this study, I believe it’s fair to assume they included plenty of HFCS.
Fructose is absorbed differently than other sugars, which may have nutritional consequences. When glucose (sugar) is consumed, it increases production of insulin, which enables sugar in the blood to be transported into cells where it can be used for energy. It also increases production of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite and fat storage, and suppresses production of ghrelin, a hormone made by the stomach that helps regulate food intake. Because of this reaction, it has been suggested that after eating glucose, hunger declines.
Fructose, on the other hand, does not stimulate insulin secretion, or increase leptin production, or suppress production of ghrelin. This is the mechanism explaining how consuming a lot of fructose may contribute to weight gain.
Fructose is also converted into the chemical backbone of trigylcerides more efficiently than glucose, and elevated levels of trigylcerides are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Since it has become such a large part of Americans’ diets -- consumption of beverages containing fructose has risen 135 percent from 1977 to 2001 -- HFCS has been linked to:
It’s unfortunate that this study made no mention of HFCS, as it may be partly to blame for why the “healthier” fares didn’t provide any protection against vascular damage.