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What's the Deal with High Fat Food?
You know that high-fat menu items (such as greasy fries, double cheeseburgers, and stand-a-spoon-in-it milkshakes) aren't good for you. However, if you're like most people, the long term dangers posed by heart disease, type II diabetes, and cancer aren't always enough to help you resist the siren song of the drive-through.
Did you know that eating too much fat can also make you hungry days later, put you at risk for food addiction, harm the planet, and funnel profit toward the healthcare industry? Read on to learn how.
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High fat items are filling, and therefore, it seems counter-intuitive that these foods could make you hungry. However, there's strong scientific evidence that foods high in saturated fats (the kind found in animal fats and tropical oils) can actually cause a long-lived appetite spike.
In the human body, appetite is controlled by insulin (which helps digest sugars) and leptin (which controls satiety, or the ability to feel full and satisfied). A study reported by the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed that saturated fats decrease the neurological activity of these two hormones. In other words, too much fat shuts down your brain's ability to say “I've had enough!” (Sohn, 2010).
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Increased Risk of Food Addiction
Years ago, a popular brand of potato chips adopted the catchphrase “betcha can't eat just one.” As it turns out, this manufacturer was simply being honest about the familiar addictive characteristics of its products. Processed food industry leaders actively pursue “cravability” (Kessler, 2010) and recent science has revealed the biology behind why many of their products are so hard to resist.
When humans eat high-calorie foods (including those rich in fat), the brain's reward center fires, and opioid endorphins are released into the central nervous system. These chemicals relieve stress, pain, and produce a feeling of calm. They also happen to be the same chemicals that are released in response to drugs such as morphine and heroin (Kessler, 2010). Just like with drugs, repeated “hits” can create dependence, especially for those who are dealing with stressful situations.
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The Social Cost
Fast foods and other high-fat items also carry an environmental and social cost. Food animals (especially cattle) produce more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. The beef used in the 550 million Big Macs sold in the United States each year generates 2.66 pounds of carbon dioxide. Offsetting those emissions will cost the US about 36.4 million dollars (Freeman, 2010).
Also, fast food fuels profit to the health insurance industry. A recent report by CNN gave one more example of how health care insurers care more about profits than the lives of human beings: Eleven large companies that offer life, disability, or health insurance policies own about $1.9 billion in stock in the five largest fast-food companies. (Klien, 2010). Every burger funds private jets and canceled policies. So make yourself a salad, and help yourself, your world, and your fellow-man.
Want more information on the health risks of a high-fat diet? Check out these great Bright Hub articles.
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Freeman, K. (2010, March/April). Is Your Burger Really That Cheap? Eating Well Magazine. Vol 9, Num 1.
Kessler, D. (MD). (2009). The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.
New York, NY: Rodale.
Klien, S. (2010, 15 April). Study: Insurance companies hold billions in fast food stock. CNN.com. Retrieved 8 June, 2010 from http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/15/insurance.fast.food.stock/index.html
Sohn, E. (2010, March/April). My Big Fat Hangover. Eating Well Magazine. Vol 9, Num 1.