Most people would agree that a steady, long-term diet of fatty, fried or processed fast food is detrimental to your physical health and well being. However, many people don't realise that bad eating habits, even on a short-term basis, can have serious long-term effects. There are some effects that can be seen after ingestion of just one bad meal. This doesn't mean you have to subsist on carrots and celery; you can enjoy most foods in moderation. However, it is important to be aware of the effects that unhealthy foods have on your body.
Overeating for a short period can have long-term effects, according Dr. Torbjorn Lindstrom, an associate professor at Sweden's Linkoping University. Lindstrom and his team studied the effects of a month of fast-food consumption on 18 healthy, normal-weight male and female volunteers. During the course of the study, the subjects were put on a high-calorie diet of mostly fast food and told not to exercise. After only of month of eating this way, the average weight gain was 6.35 Kilogram of fat.
Change in Body Composition
The same Swedish study suggests that even a short period of unhealthy eating can change your body's physiology in such a way that future weight control can be more difficult. While the 18 men and women who gained weight during the study eventually returned to their normal, healthy weights, their body compositions had changed. One year after completion of the study, they still had a higher percentage of fat mass to muscle mass, making weight management more difficult.
Dr. Gary Plotnick, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center, studied the immediate effects of consuming a high-fat meal on blood vessels. According to Plotnick, even one high-fat meal has multiple effects on the blood, including increase of fats called triglycerides, hardening of the blood vessels and increase of LDL, or bad cholesterol. "We did a test to look at the health of a blood vessel and what we found is that 3 to 5 hours after the very high-fat meal, the blood vessel's function became abnormal," says Dr. Plotnick. For a person who is already suffering from heart disease, this three to five hour period may increase the risk of a cardiac event such as a heart attack.
A Swedish study published in the British Medical Association journal "Gut" suggests that eating too much fast food, even in the short term, can cause liver damage. The study examined the effects of changes in serum alanine aminotransferase, or ALT. A high concentration of ALT in the blood is an indicator of liver disease. After only four weeks of twice-daily fast food meals, the test subjects had developed a higher concentration of ALT, indicative of a stressed liver.