Fast Food Can Shorten Life Expectancy

Fast food is popular: a croissant in the morning, a pretzel stick in between, lunch at a snack bar, and something sweet with coffee. Around a quarter of Germans grab a quick bite at least once a week. It has long been known that fast food makes you fat. Researchers have now made another discovery in studies: the immune system reacts to foods with a lot of fat and calories like a bacterial infection.

Inflammatory response from sugar and fat

Through experiments with mice, researchers in Bonn have found an explanation of what happens in the body as a result of unhealthy food. For four weeks, the mice were fed a high sugar, fat, and low fiber diet. The researchers came to these conclusions:

  • A sensor (inflammasome) on immune cells reacted to unhealthy food as if it were a pathogen. The sensor produced messenger substances that activate immune cells – and thereby cause inflammation in the body.
  • Sections in the mice’s genes were activated that permanently ensure increased production and activity of immune cells. Even small amounts of unhealthy food can therefore trigger a violent immune response.

Inflammation occurs faster and more frequently.

After switching to a species-appropriate diet (cereals), the inflammatory reactions went back relatively quickly, but the genetic changes remained.

Unhealthy eating reduces life expectancy

According to the researchers, inflammatory reactions caused by fast food accelerate arteriosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes. They assume that eating habits affect life expectancy. Unhealthy eating and lack of exercise mean that children born now may live shorter lives than their parents on average. In the USA, for example, life expectancy has been falling for two years. A diet with little meat, lots of vegetables and fruit, and healthy fats are important.

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