Something new to scare you, if you’re a burgers-and-fries fan: A troubling new study led by German scientists has found that fast-food diets boost inflammation in the body and over time change genes and the immune system in ways the boost the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
In fact, the University of Bonn researchers found that the immune system responds to a fast food-style Western diet the same way as it would react to a bacterial or viral infection.
What’s more, the impacts are long lasting and, the study claims, even switching to a healthy diet may not fully reverse the damage once initially triggered.
“These findings… have important societal relevance,” says researcher Dr. Eicke Latz, director of the Institute for Innate Immunity of the University of Bonn.
“The foundations of a healthy diet need to become a much more prominent part of education than they are at present. Only in this way can we immunize children at an early stage against the temptations of the food industry. Children have a choice of what they eat every day. We should enable them to make conscious decisions regarding their dietary habits.”
Latz explains that scientists have recently discovered that the immune system has “a form of memory” — a long lasting phenomenon they refer to as “innate immune training.”
“After an infection, the body's defenses remain in a kind of alarm state, so that they can respond more quickly to a new attack,” he notes.
The new study, involving mice, found that the same process is triggered by an unhealthy diet, unleashing a cascade of biological effects that lead to chronic disease.
The study, published in the journal Cell, may explain why junk-food diets are tied to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and a host of other ailments more common the Western world.
The Boon research involved scientists from the Netherlands, the United States, and Norway. The team track mice fed an unhealthy diet — high in saturated fats, sugar and salt, while mostly devoid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fiber.
The researchers noted the unhealthy diet led to an unexpected increase in the number of immune cells in the blood of the mice. They said it suggests such foods stimulate an acute inflammatory response and alter genes responsible for the proliferation of immune cells in the body that have been found to have a sort of memory.
Most surprising, was that the genetic reprogramming tied to the junk food remained present in the rodents, even after the researchers returned them to their typical cereal diet for another four weeks.
“Wrong nutrition can thus have dramatic consequences,” the researchers wrote. “In recent centuries, average life expectancy has steadily increased in Western countries. This trend is currently being broken for the first time: Individuals born today will live on average shorter lives than their parents. Unhealthy diets and too little exercise likely play a decisive role in this.”
© 2022 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.