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Issue 200: Junk Food = Junk Arteries

Junk Food Equals Junk Arteries

Have you ever heard anyone say that just one junk food meal won’t hurt you? Well, they’re wrong. It can, so avoid the junk food forays this year, and stick with a consistent diet of healthy foods instead.

We already know that a fairly steady diet of processed foods—namely fast foods or junk foods—can harm your health. It’s no wonder, either, because they’re packed with unhealthy fats, carbs, sugars, etc. that can mess up blood sugar, blood pressure, your cells and metabolism—plus much more.

What may be surprising, however, is that infrequently eating junk food—even one single meal—can be detrimental to your health, including your arteries. In fact, a team of researchers from the University of Montreal in Canada has published study results in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology which point out that eating a single junk food meal that’s full of unhealthy saturated fats is harmful to the arteries. By contrast—and interestingly—consumption of a Mediterranean meal rich in good fats doesn’t cause any arterial damage.

Here’s how the study went:  28 healthy, non-smoking men ate a Mediterranean-type meal—filled with salmon, almonds and veggies with olive oil—and ten were fed a conventional, processed, junk food-type meal one week later which consisted of sausage, an egg, a slice of processed cheese and three hash browns. Each of the participants had an ultrasound at two-to-four hour intervals after eating to observe endothelial function.

And just why did the researchers observe endothelial function? The endothelium is the critical inner lining of arteries that regulates the elasticity of blood vessels and rushes oxygenated blood to the cardiac muscle. Elevated and oxidized LDL cholesterol and triglycerides from junk food makes the endothelium unstable, while increased blood pressure can cause micro cracks that allow accumulation of foamy plaque that burst—leading to a heart attack.

Just two hours after the junk food meal, the study participants’ arteries dilated a full 24 percent less than they did while participants were fasting. Then, after the participants ate their Mediterranean-type meal, the arteries dilated normally and maintained good blood flow.

Dr. Anil Nigam, the study leader, said, “These results will positively alter how we eat on a daily basis. Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis. It is now something to think about at every meal.”

I agree. Every meal definitely counts when it comes to health.

This is just one of many studies that shows that even small dietary “indiscretions” can result in potentially lethal consequences and can directly and significantly increase heart attack risk.

Dr. Todd Anderson, Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher and director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and head of cardiac science at the University of Calgary, concurs. He says that just one day of eating a fat-laden breakfast sandwich—processed cheese and meat on a bun—and “your blood vessels become unhappy.”

This study, and others, reinforces that junk food can do more harm—and do it more quickly—than most people think it can.

Heart and Stroke foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson sums it up, saying, “This study reminds us that our behaviors are the backbone of preventing heart disease. Remember that whether you eat at home or go to restaurant, you’re still in charge of what you eat. So, consider all the choices, and try to cut down on unhealthy fats, calories and sodium. That’s one of the keys to decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.”

Now you know that even one junk food meal can have detrimental effects, so stay away from it. Instead, stick with foods that will continually bring you health.

And remember:  Junk Food = Junk Arteries.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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