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Every Single Fast Food Meal Counts—In a Bad Way

Jun. 11, 2015|638 views
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There’s no denying it. We’re all tempted by the siren call of fast food on occasion. What’s not to love? It’s relatively cheap, it’s usually hot and delicious, and it’s…well, fast. When you’re pressed for time, out of energy, and too tired to shop or cook, it can be hard to resist the lure of the great American fast food drive-through window. Of course, if you’re bothering to read this, you probably have to quiet that nagging little voice in your head that insists fast food isn’t worth it.

You should listen to that little voice.

According to scientists at the University of Montreal, every single fast food meal you eat takes a toll on your health. In fact, say researchers, just one high-saturated-fat junk food meal damages your arteries. In contrast, a healthful Mediterranean-style meal does no harm at all. In fact, say researchers, it may even have a positive, beneficial effect on one’s arteries.

The difference probably has to do with the effects of saturated fats and excessive carbohydrates versus “good” mono- and poly-unsaturated fats and lots of fiber. High saturated fat/high carbohydrate meals—typical of junk food and fast food meals—are especially hard on the arteries. Just a single meal sets the linings of the arteries up for inflammation and sets the stage for the development of endothelial dysfunction and eventual atherosclerosis.

The endothelium is the name given to the specialized, delicate tissue lining our blood vessels. It is here, within the endothelium, that most heart disease begins. It’s the front line on the battle for your very survival. When you eat the wrong foods, your endothelial tissues inevitably suffer. Over time, you may develop atherosclerosis, and eventually, cardiovascular disease. If it progresses far enough, you can expect to suffer an eventual heart attack, or stroke.

But an occasional indulgence in junk food is okay, right? Not so much. According to the Montreal researchers, eating just one high-saturated-fat meal resulted in subjects having blood vessels that were 24% less able to dilate. That may not sound like much, but the flexibility of blood vessels—their ability to expand and contract to meet changing blood-flow needs—is one of the most important hallmarks of blood vessel health. Eating a Mediterranean-style meal caused no such loss in blood vessel dilation capability.

"We believe that a Mediterranean-type diet may be particularly beneficial for individuals with high triglyceride levels, such as patients with metabolic syndrome, precisely because it could help keep arteries healthy," said Dr. Anil Nigam. “Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis. It is now something to think about at every meal.”

University of Montreal website. UDEM news. Available at:

J. Cantin, S. Lacroix, J. Tardif, A. Nigam. 390 Does the Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet Influence Baseline and Postprandial Endothelial Function? Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 2012; 28 (5): S245 DOI: 10.1016/j.cjca.2012.07.367


Tags:  prevention, drinks, health tips