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There's a Drawback of Junk Food You May Not Have Considered

There's a Drawback of Junk Food You May Not Have Considered

It's not just about long-term physical well-being.

Researchers in Britain, Spain, and Australia, have linked unhealthy eating (specifically of junk food) to greater risk of developing clinical depression.

The study, which looked at data from 41 previous studies, was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Health officials overseas are being asked to consider giving dietary advice to patients who face depression and other mental health issues following the new research.

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While it's not clear that eating junk food causes depression, their research shows that people who frequently consume high-fat and heavily processed foods are at much greater risk of being diagnosed with chronic depression. And they theorize ways in which junk food could actually be responsible.

There is a bright spot in the research, however. Those who follow what is often termed a Mediterranean diet, consisting of mostly fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and lean protein, "is associated with reduced risk of depressive symptoms or clinical depression," according to the study.

The review explicitly implicates unhealthy foods that lead to chronic inflammation as associated with a higher risk of depression. Dr. Camille Lassale, the study's lead author, posits that, since high fat processed foods can lead to inflammation across the digestive system, eventually pro-inflammatory molecules may travel to the brain and affect neurotransmitters in charge of regulating your mood.

The link between poor dietary choices and chronic depression isn't merely an association, the Guardian reports. In Britain alone, one in six people will or are currently experiencing depression, as well as some form of anxiety.

“Poor diet may increase the risk of depression as these are results from longitudinal studies which excluded people with depression at the beginning of the study. Therefore the studies looked at how diet at baseline is related to new cases of depression,” Lassale told the Guardian.

More scientific research on diet and holistic health:

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in the United Kingdom, said that more doctors are asking patients to change lifestyle habits and diets in new approaches to managing chronic diseases—especially because of the positive side-effects seen in mental health.

“This large-scale study provides further supportive evidence that eating a healthy diet can improve our mood and help give us more energy," Stokes-Lampard told the Guardian. "It adds to the growing body of research which shows that what we eat may have an impact on our mental health.

5 Harmful Effects of Junk Food

3. Lessens its ability to control appetiteExcess consumption of trans fats found in fried and processed foods can send mixed signals to the brain which makes it difficult to process what you have eaten and how hungry are. This is probably why you end up overeating. Healthy brain functions require a daily dose of essential fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-3. Deficiency of these two elements increases the risk of attention deficit disorder, dementia and bipolar disorder and other brain-related problems.Over consumption of junk food may displace these with trans fats which are harder to digest. A 2011 study shows that trans fats may cause inflammation in hypothalamus, the part of brain that containing neurons to control body weight.In worst scenarios, the habit of overeating can be similar to drug addiction to an extent that relying on junk foods may activate the pleasure centres of the brain greater than receiving drugs.(Junk Food May Kill Your Appetite for Healthy Food)4. It can cause chemical changes that can lead to depressionA lot of studies have shown that eating foods high in sugar and fat actually changes the chemical activity of the brain making it more dependent on such foods. A study conducted at the University of Montreal on mice showed that they suffered with withdrawal symptoms after their regular junk food diet was discontinued. In humans, these withdrawal symptoms can lead to the inability to deal with stress, make you feel depressed and eventually you would turn back to those foods to comfort yourself and handle these feelings. Soon, you may be caught in a vicious cycle even before you know it. Also, by consuming too much fast food you may lose out on essential nutrients like amino acid tryptophan, the lack of which can increase feelings of depression. An imbalance of fatty acids is another reason why people who consume more junk food are at a higher risk of depression.(7 Most Addictive Foods That Are Unhealthy)

5. It makes you impatient and can cause uncontrollable cravingsEating a sugary cupcake or doughnut may temporarily spike your blood sugar levels making you feel happy and satisfied but as soon as they return to normal you are left feeling all the more irritable.Fast food is packed with refined carbohydrates which cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate rapidly. If your sugar levels dip to a very low level, it can cause anxiety, confusion and fatigue. With high content of sugar and fats, you tend to eat too fast and too much to satisfy your cravings. This can inculcate an impatient behaviour while dealing with other things. Fast foods and processed foods may be laden with artificial flavourings and preservatives like sodium benzoate that tends to increase hyperactivity.Fast foods are specially designed to be addictive in nature with high levels of salts, sugars and fats that make you crave them. The addictive nature of fast food can make your brain crave them even when you are not hungry.

Why sugar, cheese and fast food are more addictive than heroin

A British physician who used his body as a test subject claims that one month on a junk food diet has shaved 10 years off his life.

For four grueling weeks, Chris van Tulleken, an infectious diseases doctor for the University College London Hospital system, ate a strict diet of frozen pizza, fried chicken, fish sticks, cereals and other ready-made meals which pack a long list of chemical ingredients.

Van Tulleken chronicled the effects of the diet in a new BBC show, “What Are We Feeding Our Kids?” It exposed the “catastrophic” toll of what he calls “Ultra Processed Foods,” shortened in the show to UPF.

“My libido, piles, heartburn … everything got worse. I was anxious, depressed — and it was all self-perpetuating,” van Tulleken, a longtime BBC health broadcaster, told the Telegraph.

The otherwise healthy 42-year-old was constantly nagged by hunger pangs, to the extent that he had difficulty achieving a good night’s sleep due to his urge to eat more.

“Things like monosodium glutamate (MSG) send a signal to your brain telling you this is nutritious,” said van Tulleken, whose show airs this week in the UK. “But when you digest it there is nothing [nutritious] there — so you keep eating.”

The toll this diet took on his mental health was equally alarming, said van Tulleken. An MRI proved that his poor diet had the effect of drugs or alcohol to an addict, a finding supported by previous studies. Even months later, since the experiment ended, the neurological changes have lingered.

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Van Tulleken also slammed infant and children’s foods as “confection,” warning parents to pay attention to what they’re feeding their kids.

“Most children in this country begin their lives on ultra-processed food,” he said, calling out typical kid-favorites such as white bread, sugary cereals and bacon. “What is it doing to them? The astounding thing is we have no idea.”

Van Tulleken has since eliminated UPF from his diet entirely, and takes greater care with his two kids.

“Everything I was feeding [eldest child] Lyra was ultra-processed and I didn’t realize it,” he said. Van Tulleken said he’ll take a different approach with his second child, Sasha.

Van Tulleken admitted to a troubled relationship with junk food in the past, a struggle he and twin brother, fellow health correspondent Dr. Alexander van Tulleken, shared as adolescents.

Dr. Chris van Tulleken (right), shown here with fellow physician twin brother Alexander, found solace in snacks as a kid: “My weakness is food.” Dave J Hogan

“My weakness is food. I eat almost to the point of self-harm,” he said.

He’s also still working off the weight gained during his monthlong experiment. “Many people might think that I look fairly thin, but I am overweight and I feel [self-]conscious,” he said. “There are some clothes that I don’t wear because I want to hide my belly.”

These days he’s sworn off most deli sandwiches, cereals and restaurant takeout. Likening himself to an “ex-smoker,” he said that junk food now “holds no appeal. I would no more voluntarily go and buy a UPF hamburger than I would a packet of cigarettes.”

Recent studies have shown that highly processed foods can be linked to accelerated aging and early death. It’s no coincidence that more than 73% of US adults are considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control, when research also shows that 60% of the American diet consists of processed foods.

Van Tulleken hopes to see more explicit food labeling to warn consumers of the dangers of junk food — similar to those seen on cigarettes and other addictive or otherwise harmful substances.

“I just want there to be a warning on the packet saying this food is associated with increases in obesity, cancer and death,” he said. “And then you can go ahead and enjoy it.”

Why to Ditch Fast Food

According to the Mayo Clinic, calories that come from sugar are more dangerous than calories from other carbs. Added sugars were linked to poor insulin levels, blood sugar and fat storage around the belly, which can lead to inflammation and high blood pressure.

In a January 2016 study published in Health Promotion Perspectives, fast food consumption may be a main risk factor in lower diet quality, higher calorie and fat intake and lower nutrient density in diets. Frequent consumption of fast foods was thought to be linked with being overweight, abdominal fat gain, impaired insulin and glucose homeostasis, lipid and lipoprotein disorders, induction of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. Higher fast food consumption may also increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Can junk food make you sick?

Yes, excess consumption of junk foods can have a detrimental effect on your health. It can make you sick and tired and also cause various other health problems.

Why fast food is bad for you?

Fast foods are bad for your health because they are high in trans fat, saturated fat and sugar that increase the risk of blood sugar, heart disease, cancer, liver and kidney problems.

How can you stop eating junk food?

You can stop eating junk foods by incorporating these things into your daily diet, which include eating more fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and protein and fibre-rich foods.

Will you lose weight if you stop eating fast food?

Yes, consumption of fast foods lead to weight gain. So, as soon as you stop eating junk foods the calorie consumption will reduce and you will start losing weight.

Disadvantages of Junk Food

Scientists have correlated the dramatic rise in childhood obesity with junk food consumption. Weight gained during youth often persists into adulthood, and it places adults at risk for medical conditions like diabetes.

Unhealthy eating also has a surprising effect on mental health. For example, researchers have found a relationship between junk food and violent behavior. Fast-food intake has also been shown to correlate with suicidal thoughts.

If you're pregnant, the negative effects of eating junk food may even transfer to your children.

When You’re Craving Fast Food

Fast food is often the first thing that comes to mind when you are stressed and want a quick and tasty meal. Unfortunately, picking up food that is fried or carb-heavy is never healthy and won’t help you slim down. When you make homemade versions instead, you can skip the deep-fryer, and use much less oil, sodium, and sugar. The great thing is that there are many quick recipes that will get healthy food on the table in a jiffy.

9. Homemade “Fake-Out” instead of Chinese Take-Out

Instead of chowing down on Chinese take-out, cook up your own Chinese food in the kitchen. We have several quick recipes for Chinese-inspired dinners, such as our Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken or Hot & Sour Soup. All of these recipes have gluten-free, vegetarian, and Paleo options and take less than 40 minutes to prepare (which is about how long it will take to drive to and from your favorite take-out place). If you want some fried rice to go with your meal, simply use cauliflower rice instead!


Junk foods are commonly known for their negative effects, but there are also many good benefits. They are not only providing people with nutrients that the body needs to keep bones, muscles, and the brain strong, but junk food can also provide economical benefits. Economical benefits such as helping people save time on their lunch break, save money over a long period of time, while also providing a tasty meal. Therefore, junk foods are providing more positive things to people, than there are negative ones.

Junk foods are associated with negative implications on human health. They seem to be the easiest and faster mode of food taking more so when one is busy with work or held up in preparing food for consumption. Being adopted by most teens especially the ones in colleges, junk foods have disoriented good habits of feeding. Bodies require well balanced diets which enhance proper building of body muscles and at the same time which can not cause chronic diseases. Excessive take of chips for instance leads to accumulation of fats in the body which may in turn cause blockage of body tissues.

Junk foods are not good for human consumption especially when taken frequently. They make the body weak at some point due to lack of enough nutrients necessary for body immunity (Robinson, 2006). Despite the fact that juices and vegetables offer some small percentage of vitamins to the body, their nutrients are not enough to strengthen the immunity of the body. Some juices include added natural sugar to make them sweet for consumption, an act which only increases calories which result in weight gain.

Protein content in juices is small. An individual feels weak, exhausted and irritable since junk food only satisfies the stomach in order to avoid being hungry. Junk foods are hazardous to health matters since frequent take of biscuits and more so sugary stuffs leads to tooth decay. Butter contained in chocolates and yummy cookies if taken in large quantities especially in young kids and females results into obesity. Obesity is a dangerous chronic condition which if not taken care of can cause heart failure and thus death. Junk foods make teenagers lazy in the context of food preparation since they depend on readymade foods which seem to be cheaper but expensive to health matters of their bodies.

Despite the fact that advantages of junk foods seem to outdo the disadvantages, frequent use of junk foods should be fought against. Health risks associated with junk foods are severe to humankind. Good health increases life expectancy of people. Research has shown that regions with higher life expectancy observe good morals of eating. Nutritionists play a critical role in ensuring that people observe eating standards which foster good health. Human bodies are delicate in nature and need to be taken care of through modes of consumption putting in mind the kinds of food taken so as to avoid diseases. Junk foods should be taken in small amounts if needed when in hurry and not frequently in order to maintain the body size as well as good health.

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Works cited

Bove, Jose, Frantcois Dufour, and Gilles Luneau. The World Is Not for Sale: Farmers against Junk Food. London: Verso, 2002. Print.

Cobb, Vicki. Junk Food. Minneapolis: Learner Publications, 2006. Print.

Robinson, Anthony, and Lachlan Grant. Woopsi Daisy Drives to Junk Food Junction. Victoria, B.C: Trafford, 2006. Print.

Smith, Andrew F. Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press, 2006. Print.

Smith, Andrew F. Fast Food and Junk Food: An Encyclopedia of What We Love to Eat. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood, 2012. Print.

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. Boston: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.

Trice, Laura. The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook: More Than 100 Healthy Recipes for Everyday Snacking. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2010. Internet resource.

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Pizza isn't a junk food! I am Italian and some science research found that it wasn't a junk food because it has fewer calories than chips or burgers. fire November 7, 2014

I love to eat carbs and junk food. How can I stop eating this food?

I love junk food but I eat it in very low quantities. I eat it once a month or once every two months.

What is junk food exactly? This may seem like a stupid question, but what are "healthy" foods that aren't really healthy? anon956332 June 13, 2014

I have recently heard that junk food makes kids stupid! I have got the same topic for my project. feasting November 4, 2012

French fries are the most addictive form of junk food to me. I just can't stop eating them once I start.

So, I've switched to sweet potato fries. I toss raw sweet potato slices in olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and then I bake them to avoid calories from grease. They are delicious and so very nutritious. seag47 November 4, 2012

I'm surprised that tacos are listed as junk food. I think this should depend on what you fill them with.

Sure, tacos filled with beef and cheese are not great for you. What if you fill them with ground turkey and avocado or chicken and tomato instead?

Even though the shell may have been fried in oil, the whole thing shouldn't be considered junk. The fillings could easily have valuable nutrients and little fat. JackWhack November 3, 2012

@kylee07drg – Teenagers can afford to eat a lot of junk food, because they have fierce metabolism. I remember being shocked when I turned twenty-three and started gaining weight, because I was only eating the same stuff I had been for all my life.

Suddenly, a bag of candy became my enemy. I learned that junk food would hurt me, so I altered my diet a bit.

I learned to love fruits and vegetables way more than I love junk food. I think that just knowing that something is good for me makes me feel good about eating it, so I begin to crave it instead of junk. My body tells me what it needs, and I listen. kylee07drg November 2, 2012

I spent my teenage years eating junk food. My only nutrition came from the dinners that my mom would cook every night, but during the day, I ate bad stuff.

At lunch, I would eat a ham sandwich on white bread with potato chips and a cookie. Sometimes, it was bologna instead of ham and a brownie instead of a cookie, but it was always bad.

My favorite snack was a slice of bologna cut into four wedges and placed on crackers. I would eat this every day after school. anon210187 August 29, 2011

@Momothree: I'd suggest trying to find healthier foods which come close to the taste or texture of the junk foods you currently crave. Try baking some thinly sliced potatoes drizzled with a little olive oil and a salt substitute like Mrs. Dash. You'll get just as satisfied as you would have been with potato chips. Go for the lower fat "churned" ice creams at the store, or try some sugar-free alternatives. You may be surprised at the taste of many modern sugar-free products-- they don't have that nasty chemical taste like saccharin anymore.

I'd also suggest purging the entire house of most junk foods. Out of sight, out of mind. Try lower carb snack items like pork skins and lightly salted peanuts between meals. Fruit sticks and string cheese (lower fat varieties are available) are also convenient snacks to keep in the fridge.

I have found that keeping bottled diet green tea or flavored water around the house will keep me weaned off the sugary sodas. Don't fool yourself with "diet" sodas, though. They can still make you crave actual junk food, just like the regular sodas. Good luck with your diet plan, and don't get discouraged if the numbers on the scale stop moving. For many people, it's more about inches than pounds. CellMania August 26, 2010

@momothree: I used to be the same way. Every morning when I got up, I would immediately feel the craving for sugar. I would start my day off with a couple of Little Debbie cakes or doughnuts. I also would crave salty food, as well. I was hung up on McDonald’s fries.

After gaining about 30 extra pounds, I knew I had to do something. I have been on a diet for about 11 weeks and have lost 16 pounds so far. What I do when I am craving my junk food is an intervention. I keep sugar-free pudding with me for the sweet tooth. It is really good and you can’t even tell that it doesn’t have sugar. For my salt attack, I eat a few pretzels.

I have also stayed away from “junk” drinks. I drink lots of water. I use the sugar free flavor packets and they are really good.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t completely deprive myself of everything. I did eat a Butterfinger last week but I’m okay with that because every now and then, I deserve it!

I think I'm what you would call a "junk food junkie". It seems as though I physically crave the stuff that is bad for me. I am going to be starting a diet next week and I don't know what to do when I get those junk food cravings. I have a bad sweet tooth and then I crave something salty. Any advice would be appreciated.

FAQs on Healthy and Unhealthy Food:

1. Why is unhealthy food bad for you?

If you eat junk food daily, you’re likely to be obese and more vulnerable to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, and certain types of cancers.

Some major harmful effects of eating unhealthy food are that it causes learning or memory issues, increases vulnerability to dementia, reduces control on appetite, and makes you impatient due to uncontrollable cravings.

2. What are the benefits of eating healthy?

Having a healthy diet high in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains can reduce the risk of heart diseases and other health issues by maintaining your normal cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Healthy eating includes the consumption of food that is high in nutrients and helps you maintain your overall health while keeping your body high in energy. Some essential nutrients in a healthy diet are carbohydrates, proteins, good fat, vitamins, minerals, etc.

3. What are healthy and unhealthy fats?

Here’s what you need to know about healthy and unhealthy fats:
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are considered “good fats” due to their overall health benefits.

These fats also help in reducing the risk of heart diseases, stroke, etc, as they decrease bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels and increase good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) levels.

Saturated and Trans fats are unhealthy fats, as they can increase your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels while putting your body at the risk of getting various cardiovascular diseases.