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Every Bit of Junk Food, Fast Food Damages Your Arteries, Paves Way for Coronary Artery Disease

Lisa Garber
November 2nd, 2012
Updated 11/02/2012 at 6:20 am
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junkfooddonut 245x153 Every Bit of Junk Food, Fast Food Damages Your Arteries, Paves Way for Coronary Artery DiseaseThink just one burger won’t do any damage? Not so, according to a University of Montreal study, which shows that even one meal high in saturated fat damages arteries.

Dr. Anil Nigam, Director of Research at the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabiliation Centre (EPIC) of the university-affiliated Montreal Heart Institute co-authored the study comparing the health of vascular endothelium (inner lining of blood vessels) in response to a meal of junk food versus a typical Mediterranean meal.

The study involved 28 non-smokers who ate a Mediterranean-influenced meal (salmon, almonds, and vegetables cooked in olive oil) in one week and fast food (sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich with three hashbrowns) in the next. In both meals, calories were derived between 50 and 60 percent from fat, but the Mediterranean fats were monounsaturated and polunsaturated, whereas the fast food meal’s fats were saturated with no omega 3 fatty acids. Before eating and two and four hours after each meal, the participants were evaluated for baseline endothelial funciton.

The results were about what one might expect. After eating junk food, the subjects’ arteries dilated 24 percent less than when measured in a fasting state, constricting blood flow. Arteries after subjects had eaten a healthy Mediterranean meal, however, functioned normally.

Every Meal is a Health Choice

“Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis,” Dr. Nigam says. The degree of dilation of arteries is very closely associated with their hardening, known as atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease.

“It is now something to think about at every meal.”

Subjects with higher blood triglycerides also saw benefits from the Mediterranean meal, and “individuals with high triglyceride levels, such as patients with metabolic syndrom, [would benefit] precisely because it could help keep arteries healthy,” Dr. Nigam add.

In addition to the findings revealing the damage to arteries, junk food and fast food have also been shown to cause depression. In fact, the study, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, shows that those consuming fast food are 51 percent more likely to be depressed than those consuming very little or none of the health-damaging food. What’s more, depression risk was found to increase with the more fast food and junk food consumed.

Fresh Versus Fast Food

Monounsaturated fats—like those found in olive oil—are one of the top 5 brain foods that boost cognition, and polyunsaturated fatty acids help build new brain cells. Omega 3 fatty acids have numerous benefits, too, not least of all helping to pave way for longevity and improved mood.

We make hundreds of decisions about food daily; it’s important that we make them well. Although fresh food may not always be the more affordable decision (and it often is), it’ll pay you back in the long run when you have cheaper medical bills!

Additional Sources:



The Wall Street Journal

From around the web:

  • Susie

    This article is so misguided that it should be removed. What a disappointment that it comes from this site; I would normally unsubscribe from such a source. Thank goodness for the comments of those who know better.

  • Anne

    As Jimmy Russel said, don't buy into the false information beyond drilled into our minds all these years. The most up to date and comprehensive studies show that it's not saturated fats, but inflammation that causes artery plaques. What you are missing here is that it's not the fats in the fast food, except for the Trans Fats, of which there is much, but also the main thing is the refined carbs so typical of fast foods. The buns on the sandwiches are the biggest offenders,full of High Fructose Corn Syrup, gluten, artificial colors, flavors, texturizers, mold inhibitors and chemicals to keep them all shiny and moist. Even the french fries are not bad, it's the trans fat laden sub standard "vegetable" oil they fry them in. At high heat these types of oils form toxic compounds that cause inflammation in arteries. The mediterranean type diets along with paleo and atkins all are mostly devoid of all refined carbs, that's what makes them healthier along with the vegetables and olive oil and omega 3 present in these foods.

  • Anne

    What they are finding is true, but what they are not looking at,is that it's not the saturated fats causing the inflammation, ( which is what causes calcification, not fats ) it's the refined carbs in any typical fast food meal. The buns are laden with HFC and gluten, artificial colors, preservatives ( it takes ages for MacDonald's food to mold ) and the sugar and fake food additive chemicals that make the buns all shiny and soft.

    And it's not the french fries, but the crappy hydrogenated, trans fat laden "vegetable" oils ( read canola and rapeseed and the like ) that make them unhealthy, they were actually healthier when cooked in lard. The one thing people are not noticing is that the Mediterranean diet, paleo and atkins are all devoid of refined processed carbs, that's why they are healthier on the arteries. They also counteract acid in the system and carbs throw the system off balance to an inflammatory state.

  • Dave

    But I thought it was every other meal that caused problems. Or maybe every third meal. Did anyone not realize it was accumulated. That every meal contributes to poor health, just like every cigarette does.

  • Tas'
  • Jessica

    Okay, I am very skeptical on junk food causing depression. Yes, it very well might, but just because there is a correlation between junk food consumption and depression does not mean that junk food consumption causes depression. It could just as easily mean that those that are depressed are more likely to eat junk food and fast food–I mean, the term "stress eating" is popular for a reason. I know when I'm stressed and tired, I'd much rather go to McDonalds than spend a bunch of time preparing a healthy meal

  • Anonymous

    Saturated fat is good for you!

    • Jimmy Russels

      That is correct. Saturated fat is not the cause of this epidemic, inflammation is.

      The idiotic mainstream health establishments still parrot this "fact", and I find it very disconcerting and disappointing that an alternative media site like would publish something like this. I hold you guys to a higher standard than the MSM.

      Do a little more fact-checking next time.

      Saturated fat by itself = just fine.

      Saturated fat + inflamed arteries (from eating too much gluten and similar inflammatory foods) = diabetes and other ailments.

      Remember, never trust any one source because the one you trust might be mistaken.

      • Anne

        Finally someone who gets it, bravo Jimmy Russels

    • Anne


  • Jordan

    Thank you for this article! I can use it to tell my friends and family when they always tell me, "Ohh, a little bit now and then won't hurt you". I love them, but man are they idiots who won't listen! To top it off, my aunt who knows all about these things still consumes aspartame! Great article Lisa!

    • Crawford

      I stopped the junk "food" which consists of; bacon, beef, turkey, chicken, sausage, pork, kielbasa, pepperoni, and any other processed food or land animal meat in 2003. This includes all sodas, corn syrup, aspartame, any artificial sweetners or additives of any kind. IF I need to sweeten tea, I use honey or aguave syrup. I've never been sorry, never been happier and look forward to my vegetables and fruits every day. I haven't been to a fast food joint in almost 10 years.

      Does anyone in my family eat like me? mmmmNOPE, no one!! I was the "butt of jokes" and heard this one from my husband, "your mother isn't eating any of that, lol, lol" and guess who had the triple bypass and heart attack? You guessed it, he did. He was the "king of meats," the greasier the better was his motto! So with that said, he change his eating habits a lot, but he is no where near where I am today. I am still to this day totally flabergasted as to the amount of animal protein he consumes. He thinks he is skating free on pounds of chicken and turkey and other processed foods. He gets completely antsy when there is no meat in this meals.

      I'm 66, a grandmother, I take no prescription medicine, I exercise regularly, and I've lost 66 lbs since 2003, and I eat a mostly vegetarian lifestyle, a little wild salmon and tuna on occasion, lots of water, no milk or land animal protein. My advice is eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, quinoa, a little pasta, try using whole wheat pasta.

      Another ounce of advice, go to your local library and borrow "The China Study." You just might do what I did, check it out a dozen times, and then finally say, the heck with this, "I'll just buy it." Don't get into a tizzy trying to understand the technical jargon, just read what you understand, and you will see what I mean.

    • laura m.

      I'm also anti junk food, yet I know of people eating their share of it while living into their 90's. The older I get the more careful I am eating lots fruit and veggies, avoiding wheat and corn products, as eating junk (pastries, etc) causes digestive upsets, and makes you feel bloated and sluggish.