So, what about the occasional cheeseburger, beef and cheese burrito, sausage and egg croissant, or crispy fried chicken with bacon sandwich? Many people who believe they are eating healthy also think that eating fast food once in a while is relatively harmless. But, that is simply not the case. According to mounting research and studies, many compounds in fast foods linger in the body for the long term, and contribute to aging and various health issues (not to mention weight issues).
This infographic, entitled "The Long Term Effects of That Fast Food Meal" illustrates some startling facts about what is actually commonly found in fast foods and how that affects our health. Some highlights include:
Antibiotics, Hormones and Steroids
These drugs are given to farmed animals in very high doses and residues are routinely found in the meat, poultry and dairy products that we consume. Government regulations specify "legal" residual levels of these drugs, but these are often exceeded and are not discovered through testing. But, even when not exceeded, it is estimated that 80% of the antibiotics used in the United States are in our food. The long-term consequences this poses to us include:
1. Resistance to beneficial antibiotics
2. Depletion of good bacteria in the gut
3. Intestinal discomfort
Other Additives During Processing
HCAs (Heterocyclic Amines) which occur in meat cooked at high temperatures like hot dogs and rotisserie chicken are linked to colon, stomach and breast cancers.
TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone) is a chemical preservative and is a form of butane. High doses (between 1 and 4 grams) of TBHQ can cause nausea, vomiting, delirium, tinnitus, disorientation, breathing difficulties and collapse. Five grams of the stuff can kill you. Its worth noting that 11 pounds of McNuggets contain about 1 gram of TBHQ. It is also worth noting that TBHQ is not limited to use in fast foods, but is widely used in many processed and convenience foods that have a long shelf life, as well as in cosmetic and baby skincare products.
Sugar in fast food is not limited to that in sodas, shakes and and other sweet foods - it is, in fact, found in the most unexpected places. For example, a Whopper not only contains 68% of your RDA of sodium, it also contains 11 grams of sugar - that is about 55% of the RDA for women and 31% of the RDA for men! Over-consumption of sugar has been linked to weight gain and obesity, blood sugar inconsistencies, aging skin and wrinkles, cataracts, dementia and other medical conditions.
4-MI (4-methylimidazole) is a chemical used in colas to get the caramel color and is known to be a carcinogen. While Coca-Cola and Pepsi contend that this ingredient is safe, they have nevertheless altered their formulas to reduce (not remove) the amount of 4-MI found in their products.
PUVOs (Polyunsaturated Vegetable Oils also known as Polyunsaturated Fats or PUFAs) are used to cook (fry, grill, etc.) fast food. While the Omega-6 Fatty Acids found in PUVOs (PUFAs) are considered essential, when consumed in excess they are considered dangerous and have been linked to cancer, heart and autoimmune disease, lung, liver and reproductive damage, compromised immunity, digestive problems and, of course, weight gain.
Cholesterol and Heart Attacks, Strokes
Dietary cholesterol is found in high amounts in fast foods and builds up in the body over time. One in six Americans have high cholesterol which is known to increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Meat and Colon Cancer
Meats (especially red and processed meats) in fast foods clog the colon and increase the risk for colon cancer. Eating just 3.5 ounces of processed meat daily (i.e., just 1/4 pound of hamburger) increases colon cancer risk by 36%!
The recommendation: avoid fast food, even the occasional meal! If you must eat fast food, the infographic gives suggestions on specific foods to skip.
Infographic Source: Kymberly Snyder
Related: The Unhappy Meal
Deconstructing Fast Food
America's Fast Food Obsession