If you love binging on chips and eating a Friday night burger at your local fast food joint like I do, listen up: it may be more than your waistline that’s hurting.
Researchers have found that eating junk food is not only bad for your heart, it’s harmful to your immune system.
Scientists from the University of Bonn made the discovery. They fed mice a so-called “Western diet” for a month, giving the rodents a diet high in fat and sugar, and low in fiber.
And this is what happened: the mice didn’t simply gain weight. They developed a strong inflammatory response throughout their entire body, mirroring what happens after you’re infected with dangerous bacteria. And even more daunting than this, their genes began to change.
As the study authors described, after an infection the body’s defenses remain in a state of alarm, so that they can respond more quickly to a new attack. It’s called “innate immune training.” But in the mice, this process wasn’t triggered by being exposed to an infection, but by an unhealthy diet.
Certain genes were switched on when the mice were continually exposed to fast food. Their immune systems were reacting with epigenetic changes and this made them more susceptible to developing diseases such as diabetes.
Is it reversible? Partially. Once the mice went back to eating their normal diet of cereal, the inflammation disappeared. The genetic changes, however, remained. Even long after returning to a healthy diet, researchers said that the mice’s immune systems remained hyper-active.
According to this report on QZ.com, it’s middle class Americans who are eating the most fast food. Is this you? Make a sandwich at home and grab some fruit to snack on- your system needs it.