Emotionally speaking, your brain loves fast food. Whenever you see a burger, fried chicken or a soft drink, it starts to release ghrelin, a hormone that makes you crave for food.
After being satisfied by that meal full of sugar and junk calories, another hormone, dopamine, will flood the brain again, giving you a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure. But dopamine can also put you into an addiction, making you increasingly crave fast food and eat them more.
Unfortunately, your body and immune system don’t like processed foods. A study in the journal Cell shows that our immune systems see fast food as a “enemy” like bacterial and viral pathogens.
Fast food increases immune cells in the blood of mice, similar to their inflammatory response to pathogens mầm
When the scientists tried to feed the mice a Western diet (high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, limited in fresh fruits, vegetables and fiber), a month later, they returned to the blood test. showed a significant increase in the number of immune cells, similar to the way mice’s bodies respond to viruses or bacteria that cause disease.
More alarming is that this state of increased immunity can be long-lasting, based on studies showing that our white blood cells can remember the pathogens and harmful agents it encounters in the body. body.
Anette Christ, study author from the University of Bonn in Germany said:The unhealthy diet led to an unexpected increase in the number of immune cells in the blood of the mice, especially granulocytes and monocytes.“.
Those white blood cells direct the scientists to certain genes that are activated by the diet. It’s the gene that contains progenitor cells – the type of cells responsible for nurturing an army of immune cells in our bodies.
This genetic mechanism is thought to be important, because these progenitor cells have previously been found to have a type of memory that helps the body respond to biological attack.
In other words, once the body has begun to build up immunity in response to fast foods, your abstaining from them to return to a healthy diet may not be enough to reverse the changes that have occurred. with the previous immune system. And this has some negative effects on our overall health.
This effect is irreversible
Indeed, after finishing the experiment within a month, the scientists gave their mice a healthy diet again with cereals and more fiber and vitamins. The results showed that the inflammation in their bodies disappeared, but the consequences of genetic reprogramming made the mice more susceptible to certain pathogens.
Eicke Latz, a study co-author from the University of Bonn, said:We have only recently discovered that the innate immune system has a form of memory. After an infection, the body’s defenses remain on alert, so they can react more quickly to a new attack.”
Normally only an infectious disease would produce such a response, but surprisingly, a less-than-healthy diet can now also produce these immune markers. It means that people who used to eat a lot of fast food, regardless of whether they’ve abstained from it, are more likely to develop inflammation – and its related problems, like type II diabetes – in the future.
The scientists say they will soon expand this trial to humans, to see if the immune effect is activated and remembered after volunteers eat fast food for a long time.
If that happens, it will be evidence of a link between an unhealthy diet and health problems like type II diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular problems.
In addition, based on the blood test results of 120 mice, the scientists identified a molecule that resembles a “fast food sensor” inside their immune cells. It’s an inflammatory signaling system called NLRP3 and we don’t know how it works yet.
Everyone needs to learn about nutrition, especially children
With these interim results, the study continues to be an alarm bell for us about our current fast food and processed food habits. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the world was facing an epidemic of overweight and obesity, causing metabolic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty blood …
Now, it is these patients who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Scientists say the world needs to be alerted in time before fast food and processed food cause unpredictable consequences for future generations.
“What we have discovered from this study is of social urgency. It shows we need a better education on healthy diets than we do now.” Latz said.
He pays particular attention to children, who are easily attracted and attracted to fast food, based on targeted advertising campaigns by restaurants and processed food manufacturers.
“Children have the right to choose what they eat every day“, Latz said.But we adults have a responsibility to educate them about healthy eating, so that children can make conscious decisions about their own eating habits.”