The typical high-fat, sugar-rich American Western diet is a “ticking time bomb of health problems” that dramatically hikes the risk of stroke and death at a younger age, according to a new study presented at a meeting of the Canadian Stroke Congress this week.
Researchers with the Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery found that a diet high in calories, sugar, and sodium — nicknamed the “cafeteria diet” — caused the most symptoms of metabolic syndrome (a combination of high levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and obesity) in a laboratory study of rats after only two months.
Although the study involved laboratory animals, lead researcher Dr. Dale Corbett said the findings have significant implications for human beings — including younger people, not typically at risk for stroke.SPECIAL: These 5 Things Flush 40 lbs. of Fat Out of Your Body — Read More.
"I think we'll soon start to see people in their 30s or 40s having strokes, having dementia, because of this junk food diet," said Corbett. "Young people will have major, major problems much earlier in life."
To reach their conclusions, researchers gave sedentary rats unlimited access to both nutritious food pellets and common junk food items, including cookies, sausage, and cupcakes. Animals were also given access to both water and a sucrose solution comparable to sweetened soft drinks.
Like humans, the animals greatly preferred the treats over the more nutritious options, the results showed, and had greater levels of metabolic problems after just 60 days of consuming them.
"We're not sure whether metabolic syndrome can be reversed,” Corbett said. “If it can't, and we continue to live and eat like this, then we're each a ticking time bomb of health problems."