With the number of obesity cases shockingly on the rise across the country, state governments are starting to take effective measures to stop the main culprit – junk food. While there have been cases of banning sale of junk food in school canteens and talks of fat tax, now FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has also recommended an additional tax on processed food and sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as a blanket ban on advertising of junk foods and beverages on children’s channels and content for children across television, websites and social media. The ill-effects of junk food are not unknown, yet they are readily available all across the country, making children easy prey to their ill-effects.
In a recent report by FSSAI, it stated that urgent steps are needed “to tackle the rising problem of overweight and obesity due to increasing urbanization, sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets. Thus we need to recognise and formulate strategies to reduce the burden of risk factors that fuel the chronic disease epidemic. One such established risk factor is unhealthy diet, especially those high in trans and saturated fats, refined sugars and salt. Evidence from long term cohort studies and high quality intervention studies worldwide indicates that if these unhealthy nutrients (foods with high FSS) are consumed repeatedly by young children, they become prone to developing chronic diseases earlier in their adult life than those consuming balanced diets (rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates etc.).
Studies have found the consumption of fat, sugar and salt (FSS) among Indians to be much higher than the recommended limits. Health experts advise consuming unsaturated form of fat, yet more and more people are regularly consuming trans fats, which is the worst kind, leading to an increase in cholesterol level and other health issues. The report suggests that not more than 10% of the total energy we need daily must be derived from added sugars, keeping simple sugars and refined carbohydrates on the low. Coming to salt, a WHO report stated that Indians consume twice as much the recommended quantity of salt on a regular basis. Excess sodium intake is related to hypertension and cardio-vascular (CV) risk. According to WHO as well as ICMR NIN, added salt should be restricted to about 5-6g/day.
With more and more people failing to maintain a check on FSS intake due to unhealthy lifestyle choices, the consequences of it are showing on their health. It is not just about being overweight, but making yourself susceptible to various other ailments.
Here are 5 ways junk foods are harming your body without you even knowing it –
1. Junk Food Ups Liver Disease Risk
Children who regularly consume fructose present in soda, sweetened beverages, pizza and salty food, biscuits and yogurt may be prone to liver diseases, stated a study done by researchers at Bambino Gesu Hospital in Italy. Dietary fructose increases serum uric acid concentrations, which leads to liver problems. Experts have also found that both, uric acid concentration and fructose consumption, may be high in individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – a condition where extra fat is accumulated in liver cells in people who drink little or no alcohol, and lead an unhealthy lifestyle.
2. Pizzas and Sodas May Cause Harm to the Kidneys
According to a study done by Anglia Ruskin University in Britain, it warned that a diet that relies mostly on junk food or processed food may cause long-term damage to your kidneys and trigger diabetes. In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin or does not react to it, which causes an accumulation of sugar (glucose) in the blood that can have severe long-term consequences for organs, such as kidneys and can lead to diabetic kidney disease.
“In our study, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes both induce changes in glucose transport in the kidney but junk food or a diet high in fat causes changes that are very similar to those found in Type 2 diabetes,” said lead author Havovi Chichger.
3. Fatty Foods Can Damage the Brain
According to a recent study done by a group of researchers at Deakin University School of Medicine in Geelong, Australia, the part of the brain believed to be integral to learning, memory and mental health is smaller in people who regularly consume unhealthy foods such as sweet drinks, salty snacks and processed meats. Although the study was conducted in adults over 60 years of age, the researchers believe that the findings are relevant for people of all ages, including children. The components of one’s diet, both healthy and unhealthy, have a rapid impact on aspects of the brain that affect hippocampal size and function.
Obesity-inducing junk food could also give you dementia through high blood pressure and cholesterol, which interrupt blood supply to the brain, says another study done by Brown University, US. High levels of fatty and sugary food damage the brain by interrupting its supply of insulin. Insulin is required to regulate brain chemicals, key to memory and learning, to make and strengthen connections between brain cells and to maintain the blood vessels that supply the brain with blood and oxygen.
4. Fast Food Could Be Harming Bone Development in Children
Living in a neighbourhood where there is greater access to fast food outlets may be linked to poorer bone development in early childhood, stated an UK-based study done at University of Southampton. The researchers looked at the bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) of 1,107 children at birth and at four and/or six years of age.
“The findings suggest that the exposure of mothers and children to more healthy food environments might optimise childhood bone development through its influence on the quality of the maternal diet and dietary choices during childhood,” said study co-author Cyrus Cooper.
5. Junk Foods Kills Your Appetite for Healthy Food
Researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia conducted a series of experiments to see how junk food impacts eating habits and diet preferences. They found that junk food can not only make you put on weight but also destroy your appetite for healthy food. This is because a junk food diet causes lasting changes in the reward circuit parts of the brain, the part that is responsible for decision-making. With more consumption of junk food, you crave more for such foods rather than looking for healthier options.