Eating healthy isn’t always easy, especially when you’re in a rush or low on cash. But there are enough scary things that fast food does to your body that might make the dollar menu seem way less appealing. Believe it or not, there might actually be a plus side to eating fast food that researchers didn’t consider before. According to a new study out of the University of Bonn, eating fast food might make your immune system more aggressive, which should be a good thing, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Researchers put a bunch of lab mice on a “Western diet” full of high-carb, high-sugar diets, which is basically what most fast food is made of. The mice’s immune system responded to the fast food diet as if it were a bacterial infection, going into overdrive to protect itself. They found that the immune system stayed in its hyperactive state, which in some cases can actually promote autoimmune diseases. It might seem counterintuitive, but an aggressive immune system can be just as scary as a depleted one, leading to increased risk of vascular diseases or type-2 diabetes, according to PR Newswire.
Dr. Eicke Latz, M.D., the director of the Institute of Innate Immunity at the University of Bonn and a lead author of the study said in a statement, “After an infection, the body’s defenses remain in a hyperactive, alarmed state, so that it can respond more quickly to a new attack. Our team of researchers discovered that the Western diet has a similar impact, and, therefore, these findings have enormous relevance to society and potential therapeutic implications.”
So don’t go replacing your vitamin C with chicken nuggets and soft tacos just yet, especially since fast food has more terrible side effects on your health than “boosting your immune system.”
1Increased risk of depression.
A 2012 study found that people who eat more fast food (and “consumer baked goods,” like cookies and cakes) are 51 percent more likely to be depressed. These people were also more likely to be single, less active, and “more likely to work more than 45 hours a week.” So just remember that self care shouldn’t come in the form of a value meal.
2Increased risk of cancer.
There are a number of studies that show a correlation between fast food and various cancers. A lot of this has to do with the amount of fried foods that are often part of a fast food diet. Janet Stanford, Ph.D., co-director of the Hutchinson Center’s Program in Prostate Cancer Research told Men’s Health that high temps create carcinogens. “High-temperature deep frying can really change the constitution of the food, so it produces chemicals that can be damaging to DNA,” she said. That, and the chemicals in the packaging, increase your risk.
3Your memory suffers.
A study done at the University of California’s Brain Injury Research Center found that some lab rats who ate a fast food diet ended up with reduced BDNF levels, a chemical that protects adult brains from memory loss and dementia. So your munchies aren’t doing you any more favors than a night of partying does.
4It messes with your skin.
It’s not just the grease and the chocolate milkshakes. Fast food is also really high in salt, which can dehydrate you. And we all know what being dehydrated can do for your glow. If you feel parched after a burger, go for water instead of a diet soda.
5You’re eating plastics.
A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives last year found that eating fast food increases a person’s amount of phthalates, which is a chemical substance that leeches onto food from plastic gloves, containers, or conveyor belts. In addition to being just nasty, the chemicals can also disrupt your hormones. In men, it can also lower sperm count. Hormones are important when it comes to your sex drive and mood, so chill on those french fries.
6Your blood vessels start acting weird.
According to Dr. Gary Plotnick, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center, three to five hours after a high-fat meal, your blood vessels function “abnormally.” If you eat fruit and veggies and have a generally healthy diet, this is just a temporary event. But for someone with a coronary disease or who is already very unhealthy, it could trigger a stroke or heart attack.
7It gives you bad breath.
The effects of fast food on your health are serious, but one that you might notice sooner than others is that you’re more likely to have bad breath if you eat fast food. People who eat fast food more than three times a week are 15 percent more likely to have halitosis, or stinky breath and “tongue fuzz,” as Vice’s Munchies so aptly describes it.
Researchers think this could be because of an increased risk of cavities and also acid reflux that comes with eating a bunch of junk all the time. In addition to increased brushing, researchers suggest eating some veggies or fruits to “promote gastric emptying” or drinking some green tea. And then, you know, brush your teeth, of course. Fast food is admittedly delicious and hits the spot sometimes (as well as just always being there), but the effects of too much in your diet can be really bad for you. Just remember that everything is better in moderation.