Among the macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – fat is absorbed the slowest. Fatty foods can be found not only in fast food outlets, but also in workplaces, restaurants, schools, and even at home. Most fried or cooked foods with added oil are considered fatty. They include French fries, potato chips, deep-fried pizza, onion rings, cheeseburgers, and donuts, Healthline writes.
These foods tend to be high in calories, fat, salt, and refined carbohydrates, but low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. While fatty foods can be a nice treat on special occasions, they can have a negative impact on your body and health in both the short and long term.
Here are 7 effects of fatty foods on your body.
Can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea
Among the macronutrients-carbohydrates, fats, and proteins-fat is the slowest to digest. Since fatty foods contain a large amount of fat, they slow down stomach emptying. In turn, food stays in the stomach longer, which can cause bloating, nausea, and stomach pain.
In people with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic pancreatitis, or gastric disease, high levels of fatty foods can cause stomach pain, cramping, and diarrhea.
Can worsen the gut microbiome
Fatty foods are known to harm the healthy bacteria that live in the gut. This set of microorganisms, also called the gut microbiome, affects the following:
- Fiber digestion. Bacteria in the gut break down fiber to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are anti-inflammatory and may protect against digestive disorders.
- Immune response. The gut microbiome interacts with immune cells to help control your body’s response to infections.
- Weight management. An imbalance of gut bacteria can contribute to weight gain.
- Gut health. Disorders of the gut microbiome are associated with the development of IBS, while probiotics – live, healthy microorganisms found in certain foods – can help relieve symptoms.
- Heart health. Healthy gut bacteria can help increase levels of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol, while harmful species can produce artery-damaging compounds that contribute to heart disease.
A high-fat diet, such as one rich in fatty foods, can damage the gut microbiome by increasing the number of unhealthy gut bacteria and decreasing the number of healthy ones. These changes may be linked to obesity and other chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. However, further research on diet and gut health is needed.
This can lead to weight gain and obesity
Fatty foods prepared with a lot of fat can cause weight gain due to their high-calorie content. For example, a small baked potato (100 grams) contains 93 calories and 0.1 grams of fat, while the same amount of French fries contains 312 calories and 15 grams of fat.
Observational studies have linked high consumption of fried foods and fast food to increased rates of weight gain and obesity. Obesity is associated with many negative health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. In particular, a high intake of trans fats can cause weight gain.
Trans fats are formed when vegetable oils are chemically altered to remain solid at room temperature. Despite the rules for their use, they are still found in many fatty foods due to the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in frying and food processing. Animal studies show that trans fats can lead to slight weight gain – even without excessive calorie intake.
In addition, an 8-year study of 41518 women found that those who were overweight gained an additional 1 kg for every 1% increase in trans fat intake. Although other studies have not confirmed this finding, regular consumption of fatty foods can interfere with weight management.
May increase the risk of heart disease and stroke
Fatty foods have a negative impact on heart health. For example, fried foods have been shown to increase blood pressure, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and lead to weight gain and obesity, which are linked to heart disease. For example, studies show that potato chips increase inflammation and may contribute to heart disease.
In addition, your risk of heart disease may be related to how often you eat fried foods. One study found that women who ate 1 or more servings of fried fish per week had a 48% higher risk of heart failure than those who ate just 1-3 servings per month. In another study, people who ate 2 or more servings of fried fish per week had a 63% higher risk of heart attack or stroke than those who ate 1 or fewer servings per month.
In addition, a large observational study of 6,000 people in 22 countries linked the consumption of fried foods, pizza, and salty snacks to a 16% increase in stroke risk.
May increase the risk of diabetes
Fatty foods can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Eating fast food, which includes not only fatty foods but also sugary drinks, leads to high-calorie intake, weight gain, poor blood sugar control, and increased inflammation.
In turn, these factors increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that includes obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. For example, a large observational study showed that eating fried foods 1-3 times a week increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 15%, but 7 or more times a week increases the risk by 55%.
Another study found that people who ate fast food more than twice a week were twice as likely to develop insulin resistance, which can be a precursor to diabetes, compared to those who ate less than once a week.
Can cause acne
Many people associate fatty foods with rashes and acne. In fact, studies have linked the Western diet, which is rich in refined carbohydrates, fast food, and fatty foods, to acne. Some researchers suggest that a poor diet can affect gene expression and alter hormone levels, contributing to the development of acne.
Western diets with a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids can also cause increased inflammation that leads to acne. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish, algae, and nuts, and omega-6s are found in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.
Oils used to fry fatty foods contain high amounts of omega-6 and can therefore contribute to an imbalance in this ratio. Some fatty foods, such as fried donuts, are also rich in refined carbohydrates. These are sugar and refined grains that are devoid of fiber and many nutrients.
Since sugary foods increase the activity of certain hormones in your body, including androgens and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), they can contribute to acne by increasing the production of skin cells and natural skin oils.
Can disrupt brain function
A diet rich in fatty and greasy foods can cause problems with brain function. Weight gain, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome associated with fatty foods are also associated with damage to your brain structure, tissue, and function.
In addition, diets high in trans fats are associated with impaired brain function. One study of 1,018 adults found that every gram of trans fat eaten per day impairs word recall, indicating memory damage. In addition, in a study of 38 women, higher intake of saturated and trans fats was correlated with poor word memorization and recognition in addition to lower performance in spatial tasks.
Finally, a review of 12 studies linked trans- and saturated fats to the risk of dementia, although some results were contradictory.