Junk foods are very popular and available everywhere. It is quick to make and has a good taste. Therefore, the majority of people are in the habit of consuming it, and for some, it is the food of choice. Long-term overuse of junk food may lead to many health hazards like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, etc. as they may contain unhealthy and high amounts of oils, saturated fats, salts, and carbohydrates. The fast and busy lifestyle nowadays makes people dependent on junk foods, which adds to the risk factors for the health hazards of junk food.
What is junk food?
Junk foods are so called as they do not fulfill the daily requirements of nutrients needed for optimal body activities and healthy living. They are rich in energy (kilojoules), salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats (saturated and transfats). A few examples of possible junk food are:
- sugary drinks like energy or soft drinks.
- cakes and biscuits.
- fast foods (hot chips, burgers, and pizzas).
- chocolate and sweets
- Processed meats such as bacon
- Snacks such as chips
Health hazards of junk food
Long-term consumption of junk food may lead to serious health hazards like:
- Type-2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Certain types of cancer
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Consumption of junk food may also lead to weight gain and the following short-term effects on health:
- It affects the quality and quantity of sleep.
- Acid Reflux
- increased stress levels.
- depleted energy levels.
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Tooth decay
- feeling lethargic
The health hazards of junk foods are mostly due to the presence of high levels of sugars, salts, trans and saturated fats, and a lack of essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
how junk foods cause health hazards?
Junk foods are rich in unhealthy quantities or qualities of salt, sugar, fats, etc., and lack essential nutrients required for healthy body activities. This may lead to the following health conditions with long-term and indiscriminate use:
Consumption of junk food provides an extra number of calories. This long-term use may lead to obesity—a risk factor for many health hazards like type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart diseases, etc.
Junk food lacks fiber and essential nutrients for normal digestive activities. Its consumption may lead to overeating, which can cause indigestion or acid reflux. Lack of fiber may impact normal bowel movements and may lead to constipation.
Lack of essential nutrients
Most junk foods are devoid of any essential nutrients and may cause nutritional deficiencies. The lack of nutrients in junk food may cause many health hazards. Moreover, it can lead to lowered energy levels, fatigue, and a slower metabolism.
Junk foods may contain ingredients harmful to health
Most junk foods are tasty but contain ingredients that are harmful to your health. They may contain high levels of nitrates, which are used to protect junk food from harmful bacteria and keep it longer. Consumption of nitrates in the long term can be carcinogenic (may cause cancer). Saturated fats present in junk foods may increase the level of bad cholesterol (LDL). High levels of sodium used as a preservative in junk food can lead to various health hazards like high blood pressure, a precursor to heart disease and stroke.
Junk foods may contain high levels of sugar and unhealthy fats. It may impact normal brain functioning as junk food is devoid of essential nutrients and amino acids.
As per a study by the Molecular Psychiatry journal, it was found that people consuming junk food have an increased risk of depression. The study was undertaken by researchers from Britain, Spain, and Australia. who examined 41 previous studies on the links between diet and depression.
The researchers were of the opinion that a large amount of fat or sugar is present in the foods, and the foods that are processed for too long (like junk food) may lead to inflammation in the body. Recent research shows that inflammation leads to an increased risk of depression.
As per the study, it was found that people who consume fast food and sweets regularly are 51% more likely to develop depression than people who avoid such foods. The researchers observed that the depression level increased as per the increased consumption of junk food.
Long-term use of junk food may lead to kidney disease. The high levels of sodium and unhealthy fat present in junk foods can increase blood pressure, which can lead to kidney disease. The high amount of finely processed salt increases salivation and enzyme secretion. This leads to a craving for such foods, thus making them difficult to avoid.
Junk foods may lack essential nutrients that impart skin a healthy and shiny look. Moreover, they may contain a high amount of fat and carbohydrates. This can increase the risk of acne and other skin conditions.
The health hazards of junk food include tooth decay due to its long-term consumption. It affects the enamel of the teeth, making them prone to infections. Losing and decaying teeth can have other health implications.
Consuming junk food may lead to a loss of memory. High levels of salt and sugar present in junk food can impact normal brain functioning. It can affect your ability to concentrate and learn, especially in children and teenagers, where it is more popular.
According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, having junk food continuously for even five days can significantly impact memory. An unhealthy diet can lead to inflammation in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is responsible for memory.
Sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle
Junk food is generally an easy and fast way to eat in modern busy lives. It makes people lazy and addicted to it. After stressful working days, people prefer to spend their time on a relaxing sofa watching electronic screens and consuming junk food. Consumption of junk food makes them lethargic and adopt sedentary habits, distancing them from physical activities necessary for healthy living. Junk foods are an easy option to satisfy their hunger instantly, putting their health at risk.
Why junk foods are difficult to avoid?
Junk foods are tasty, and people enjoy consuming them and find them difficult to avoid. The scientific explanation is that our brain encourages us to repeatedly have experiences of things we find pleasurable. This includes tasty food as well. This encouragement system from our brain is termed a “reward” system.
When you eat tasty food, including junk food, the reward system of your brain releases dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with the feeling of pleasure). With pleasure, your brain creates more receptors for dopamine. It is similar to the long-time use of alcohol or drugs; addiction requires more than the dose. You crave more junk food the more you eat it.
Can small amounts of junk food be included in a healthy diet?
As per Australian Dietary Guidelines, a small amount of junk food can be added to a healthy diet occasionally. It is also very important to balance junk food consumption with increased exercise to help burn off extra energy to avoid obesity and other health hazards.
- Junk food contains high levels of unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar. It is devoid of essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are required for healthy living.
- Consuming junk food can have short and long-term health hazards like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and high sugar levels, aggravating many health complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, diabetes, etc.
- Occasionally, a small amount of junk food can be added to your healthy diet along with the increased physical activity.
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For awareness purposes only.
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