It is all too easy to dash into your favorite fast food restaurant, or swing by the drive-thru, on your way home from work, but for Americans, junk food has become a national issue.
According to data analysis by the Food Institute, Americans are now spending around half of their food budget on eating out, and when they eat out, they’re often consuming unhealthy food full of fat and salt.
While the odd night of fast food does not do you any harm, it is important to know that moderation is key. Here are seven ways a bad diet can affect your health, in both the long and short term.
The most obvious way in which a poor diet, including burgers, fries, and chocolate, affects your health is through weight gain. If you are putting more calories into your body than you are burning through exercise, the body will store this excess as fat, leading to you piling on the pounds. Obesity can result in respiratory problems and can place extra pressure on the body’s organs, leading to significant long-term health problems, such as asthma, heart disease, and kidney failure.
Even if you do exercise, you should be watching what you eat. An ISAAC study found that children who ate fast food more than three times a week were at increased risk of developing asthma.
While acne is traditionally thought of as something just teenagers go through, it is actually caused by eating an excess amount of carbohydrates. Carbs cause blood sugar levels to spike, triggering acne. Eating fast food more than three times a week is also thought to make you more susceptible to eczema, an itchy, flaking skin condition that manifests itself in small patches on the body.
A poor diet containing lots of trans fat can lead to you having higher levels of cholesterol in your body, meaning you are at greater risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Cholesterol does not have any symptoms, and because of the health implications, it is best that you take a cholesterol blood test for more information. If you are found to have high levels of cholesterol, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. The easiest way is to consume a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
Poor long-term health does not just result from eating too much. Not eating enough, or not eating enough of the right foods, can also be highly damaging.
Anorexia and bulimia –an emotional disorder where people make themselves sick after eating – are both on the rise in the United States, and around 30 million people in the country are thought to have suffered from an eating disorder at one time or another.
Increased blood sugar
Fast food, whether it is McDonald’s or Taco Bell, is often full of carbohydrates and little to no nutritional value in terms of fiber. Once your body has broken down the fast food, the carbohydrates released into your system turn into glucose, which causes your blood sugar to rise. If you are healthy, the insulin created in your pancreas keeps surges in glucose in check. However, a long-term bad diet could affect your body’s production of insulin, or cause it to stop producing insulin at all. The result is an increase in the likelihood of type 2 diabetes and weight gain.
A bad diet does not just affect you physically. It can also have an impact on your mental health. A study conducted by the Center for Health Sciences in Spain found that those who regularly eat unhealthily, processed foods were 51% more likely to develop depression than those who stuck to a healthy, balanced diet.
Impact on society
Finally, the impact of a poor diet on the health of a nation must be considered. The idea of the United States being a healthy nation has almost become a joke, as the statistics don’t lie. Two-thirds of American adults are currently either overweight or obese, while one-third of children between the ages of six and 19 are at an unhealthy weight. Americans have embraced the fast food culture more than any other country, and the increase in restaurants, fast-food joints and other places to eat out has resulted in a rapid increase in the number of obese people in the country.
The result, of course, is a long-term strain on the healthcare system and a reduction in life expectancy.