We are in the junk food generation. Junk food can be defined as any food that is low in important nutrients but high in calories, sodium and literally everything else. They contain little or no vitamins, minerals or proteins but they are rich in sugar, salt, fats and calories. Potato chips, burgers, fried chicken, pizza, candy and chocolates are hallmark junk foods. Let us unearth some secrets of these foods that are not obvious to all and sundry.
Components of junk food and their effects
Junk foods are rich in carbohydrates, fats, trans-fat, salts and sugars. Saturated fat and trans-fat increases the risk of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes, on top of having an adverse effect on fat metabolism. On the other hand, the amount of dietary salt consumed has a direct impact on the blood pressure levels and overall cardiovascular risk. Junk food usually contains 9-12 grams of salt, which is over and above the recommended 5 grams per person per day.
Why junk food is so popular despite its many side effects
Junk food is tasty but unhealthy. It is low in fiber, high in fats and sugars. According to a recent study, the fat content in junk food affects the brain on top of the other series of cardiovascular and other diseases that it leads to. It sends signals to the body cells to ignore appetite- suppressing signals from insulin and leptin , leading to overeating and consequently weight gain. Junk food is just as addictive as cocaine, as it disrupts chemistry of the brain. In fact, junk food addicts and drug addicts face almost the same consequences, as addiction to both of these substances cause unresponsiveness of the dopamine signal receptors. As a result, the addicts will have a craving for the addictive substance until the same level of satisfaction is attained.
The effects of junk food in children and young adults
Children are more vulnerable to the effects of junk food than adults. This is because for instance, the arteries start clogging as early as 20 years of age, setting the stage for heart attacks. The risk of prostate and breast cancers also increase with increase in age for a junk-food addict, not to mention osteoporosis and hypertension. Junk foods also decay new teeth, slow growth and promote obesity. They also lead to infirmity and debilitating disease. Young men who are fond of eating junk food tend to be infertile, and the quality of their sperms is lower than that of their counterparts who eat nutritious diets like fish, vegetables and whole grains.
To students, junk food also affects their ability to pay attention in class, thus affecting the general performance and the IQ level. You may also be shocked to realize that today’s teenagers are almost 3 times as likely to be overweight than they were 20 years ago, meaning that they are likely to face the dire consequences of junk food consumption in the future. The current statistics are worrying, and we need to think about the future generation. According to WHO, unhealthy diet is one key cause of the growing global burden of disease, and Junk food is responsible for rising cases of obesity and non communicable diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, which lead to about 2.8 million deaths per year worldwide.
Debunking the myths about junk food
There are several myths that explain why people love junk food. However, it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that junk food is addictive, and that is why people find it difficult to quit them. Mainstream nutritional advice states that junk food is not bad in itself in moderation junk food can be part of a healthy diet. However, its addictive nature mars any efforts of consuming it in fine moderation and that is why its consumption almost always leads to adverse health conditions.
With these shocking facts on junks foods, various countries have considered legislation limiting the availability of junk food. Britain, USA, Scotland, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Denmark, Hungary and India are some of the countries that have imposed laws on junk food. It is hoped that other countries will follow their example, as per the regulations of WHO.