You may be aware that fast food and processed foods can harm your physical health, leading to diabetes and obesity, as well as premature cardiac death, cancer, strokes, and more.
But these foods are also altering your brain and your mental health – fueling depression, mental illness, and other issues.
According to a study published in the Public Health Journal, people who eat fast foods are 51% more likely to develop depression compared to those who eat little or no fast food. And this finding was for people who only consumed two servings of fast food a week.
Another study published in the Journal of Adolescence Health found that eating just one serving of French fries per week during adolescence increased women’s breast cancer risk later in life by 27%.
And a study published in Circulation found that eating fast food one time per week increased the risk of dying from coronary heart disease by 20% — a risk that grew to 50% for people eating fast food two or three times per week.
Other documented impacts from these foods include:
- Brain fog
- Mood swings
- Violence and aggression
And for kids who eat unhealthy and processed foods, the situation may be even worse. Children who consume nutrient-rich diets have been found to perform better academically than those who are nutrient-deficient. Well-fed children have been found to be:
- Less hyperactive
- Less moody
- More cooperative
Children are also developing habits and tastes that will affect them as they become adults. If kids eat these foods often, it will harder for them to break those patterns later in life. And childhood eating habits have far-reaching consequences.
Why do people eat junk foods despite the fast food health risks?
Most people know fast food isn’t good for them. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, out of the 2,027 adults surveyed, 76% said fast food is “not too good” or “not good at all for you.”
But as that same Gallup poll showed, 8 out of 10 Americans eat fast food at least once a month, and 47% of Americans eat fast food once a week or more.
Fast food is appealing — it’s cheap, convenient, tasty, and in many circles, socially acceptable. But the health concerns are dramatic. So why do so many people continue to make choices they know are not in their long-term best interests? Processed foods are being designed to alter our brains and drive food addiction.
The science of food addiction says these foods produce the same biochemical effects in the brain that are characteristic of substance abuse. Hundreds of millions of people have come to crave these unhealthy foods.
Getting educated about the negative consequences of consuming junk foods can help you talk about the health risks of bad food choices with other people in your life. And you can set an example by saying no to fast foods – and saying yes to healthy alternatives.