A study published in January of this year caused quite a storm among journalists. Everyone knows that typical fast food isn’t great for them, but it’s a lot of the effects occur on the inside where you can’t see them. Sometimes how we appear in the mirror isn’t reflective of the inner processes, and a recent study has looked at exactly what happens to the immune system after fast food.
What was the study?
Published in the Journal Cell, the study aimed to examine the effects of a typical ‘Western Diet’ on the immune system. The researchers used special mice which were predisposed to develop a plaque build-up in the arteries and fed them a high fat, high-sugar diet.
When eating the typical Western diet, the mice exhibited a systematic inflammatory response whilst when they ate a nutritious, healthy diet, the inflammation went away. The Western Diet also changed the way in which our body fought infection by irreversibly affecting their white blood cells.
What’s the conclusion?
Essentially, eating a diet lacking in nutrition but high in calories, fat, and sugar can dramatically change the way in which our body fights infections. Once the mice had regained their health back after switching to the healthy diet, the researchers exposed them to some inflammation. Because of the western diet, the cells of the mice then experienced an exaggerated response, meaning that the immune system had remembered the previous inflammation and then attacked the new inflammation more aggressively and remained in a position to fight infection even when there was no infection present.
What can I do about it?
Although the situation might seem pretty dire, it’s not as awful as it seems. Just because you’ve eaten a bad diet in the past doesn’t mean that you’re doomed forever. As well as this, eating fast food isn’t inherently bad. When it comes to your diet and certain foods, the devil really is in the dose. Having a slice of cake a muffin, a cookie, or a burger every now and again isn’t going to cause your immune system to break down and think you’re constantly under attack. It’s only when these foods start making up the majority of your diet that problems start arising. So, it’s best to follow the 80/20 rule with your nutrition: 80% of the time you eat healthy, natural, nutritious foods such as fish, nuts, vegetables, seeds, and fruit, and then save the other 20% of the time for treats.