“A journey to a thousand pounds begins with a single burger.”- Chris O’Brien. Ironic but true, right? And this saying doesn’t just apply to a burger, but to all foods similar to it -- and we know that these foods are the well-known junk foods. From the word itself, ‘junk’, we are already given an idea of what and how it is made. Fast foods, chips, chocolates, and candies -- these are examples of junk foods. These foods are greatly enjoyed by everyone, but most people don’t look into its true nature and what it does to the body. We simply give in to our cravings and indulge ourselves to these foods. Whenever we are hungry, we often think of eating something that is delicious and readily available anywhere and we opt to eat junk foods, without thinking of its possible effects to us.
Junk foods, foods which are quick and easy to prepare and easily obtained anywhere, have both good and bad effects to the body.
The word ‘junk’ in junk foods may sound harmful, but they are not really evil-incarnated foods. Junk foods, such as burgers, pasta, and the like are good sources of energy. These foods are rich in carbohydrates which are needed by the body. Carbohydrates are food substances that consist of a single sugar molecule or of multiples of them in various forms. They provide the body with energy. Also, junk foods contain fats, and these are essential to the body. The kinds of fats found in junk foods are saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are found in animal products and in palm and coconut oils, while unsaturated fats are found in plant products, and junk foods both have these two kinds of fats. Essential fatty acids are also found in junk foods, which are required in the diet. Carbohydrates and fats supply calories and are called “energy nutrients”. These are the body’s sources of fuel, and all these can be found in junk foods. (Brown, J.E., 2009)
Now let’s talk about chocolates. Almost everyone loves it. Anyone with a sweet tooth can’t probably resist a piece of it. According to Kassidy Emerson, chocolate contains a chemical known as phenyl ethylamine. The phenyl ethylamine, in addition to the sugar, fat, and caffeine found in chocolates has been shown to release serotonin and endorphins, which are the two known chemicals that make us feel happy. Our body naturally produces these two hormones, but whenever we eat chocolates, it induces the production of these two bodily hormones. That’s why chocolates are considered as stress relievers.
Aside from providing energy to the body and making us feel happy, junk foods also provide us temporary fullness. Although it does not provide the same feeling of fullness like eating a regular meal, consuming pasta, pizza, and the like can make us last our activities even for a short period of time. Junk food mainly contains starch which is found in flour and is a source of carbohydrates, and these carbohydrates tend to stay longer in our stomach thus, giving us a feeling of fullness. (Brown, J.E., 2009)
However, although junk foods may seem pleasing to everyone, it has countless negative effects. As mentioned, junk foods contain a lot of fats, oil, salt, and sugar. These substances contribute a lot to obesity. And what makes us pack on the pounds? Eating more calories than we burn. Here’s the equation: one gram of carbohydrates is equal to four calories. A gram of dietary fat is equal to more than double of it, over nine calories. That’s why burning a gram of fat takes twice as much effort than burning off a gram of carbohydrate. (Feltman, J., ed., 1993) Obesity, in addition, can account to a number of complications. First is diabetes. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. The levels of glucose in the blood are controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is made in the pancreas. Insulin helps glucose enter the cells. Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body can’t use glucose normally. (KidsHealth.org) Diabetes occurs in obese patients at three-times the rate in non-obese persons. (Bjorntorp, P., & Brodoff, B. 1992)
Also, the fat and salt content of junk foods contribute to the development of several heart diseases. A junk food diet is rich in saturated fat which raises blood cholesterol and risk of heart disease. (Goor, R., et.al. 1990) According to Susan Peterson, myocardial infarction, angina, and arteriosclerosis are some of its possible risks. This is because of plaque formation in arterial walls which demands the heart to put in extra effort to pump blood. This plaque formation is due to the cholesterol deposits which are accumulated from the fat contents of the food we eat. High blood pressure is also caused by eating junk foods. The sodium in salt makes the body retain water, and too much fluid retention causes blood pressure to rise. (Feltman, J., ed., 1993) And according to Robert Ornstein, M.D., with more consumption of salt, high blood pressure worsens. Obese people have a strong risk of cardiovascular disease. (Bjorntorp, P., & Brodoff, B. 1992) Excess cholesterol causes the formation of plaque which attaches itself to arterial pathways. This causes clogs in the blood flow and can lead to heart attacks. (Alvarez, H., & Cabuhal, G.M., 2010)
Some junk foods, particularly chocolates and candies have high sugar content, particularly high fructose corn syrup, and too much of these cause diabetes. According to Judith Brown, sugar enters our diets primarily from foods that have added sugar. Although it is primarily used because of its sweet taste, simple sugars improve the appearance, consistency, and cooking properties of many food products. Thus, they are the mostly used food additive. Junk foods rely heavily on high fructose corn syrup to provide sweetness. These, when consumed in high doses, can be toxic to the liver the same way alcohol is. (Peterson, S. 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2012) Sugar is not really the reason for diabetes, but the HFCS. Consuming too much of this is what causes the said disease. Diabetes also has a strange effect on digestion. According to Henry Janowitz, M.D., diabetes can cause gastroparensis, or delayed gastric emptying. Its symptoms are nausea, vomiting, weight loss, early satiety, and especially upper abdominal enlargement. It is known to be the most significant disorder in a diabetic person’s stomach.
A junk food rich diet can also cause cancer. According to Judith Brown, diet is one of the major environmental factors, and it accounts for 40% of cancer risks. High intake of saturated fats from meats and dairy products also increases the risk. Cancer of the stomach and liver appears to be related to the regular consumption of foods such as hot dogs, luncheon meats, and foods preserved with nitrates. Obesity also increases the risks of cancer at several sites. High levels of central fat appear to change metabolism of hormone such as estrogens, testosterone, and insulin in ways that promote the growth of abnormal cells.
Lastly, when junk foods are manufactured, it has gone through a lot of processes, and due to these processes, a lot of hazards may be imposed to the final consumers. In the food manufacturing site, these foods go through different machineries and are exposed to some sort of chemicals. Food-borne illnesses and infections may be acquired from the processing and preparation of these foods. This could be due to improper food handling or an unhygienic workplace. (Mayer, J., ed. 1973)
Junk foods are somewhat treated as one of life’s great pleasures. Aside from satisfying our cravings, it also does good things to our body. It provides energy and can even make us feel happy. But still, we all know that the negative effects outnumber the positive ones. It is not really necessary that we totally avoid junk foods, but we should only consume them in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with indulging to these simple pleasures, so long as we know how to limit ourselves, we can surely enjoy living a guilt-free and healthy life.
Brown, J.E. (2009). Nutrition. Wadsworth, USA. Cengage Learning. Feltman, J., ed. (1993). Prevention’s Food & Nutrition. Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Rodale Press. Alvarez, H., & Cabuhal, G.M. (2010). Food Safety, Sanitation and Hygiene. Intramuros, Manila. Mindshaper’s Co., Inc. Bjorntorp, P., & Brodoff, B. (1992). Obesity. New York, USA. J.B. Lippincott Company. Peterson, S. (2011, August 12). The Positive and Negative Effects of Junk Foods. Retrieved September 12, 2012 from http://www.livestrong.com Emmerson, K. (2007, April 10). 10 Interesting Facts About Chocolates. Retrieved September 21, 2012 from http://www.voices.yahoo.com Goor, R., et.al. (1990). The Choose to Lose Diet. Boston, USA. Houghton Mifflin Company. Ornstein, R., & Sobel, D. (1989). Healthy Pleasures. Massachusetts, USA. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc. Janowitz, H. (1992). Indigestion. New York, USA. Consumers Union. Mayer, J., ed. (1973). U.S. Nutrition Policies in the Seventies. San Francisco, USA. W.H. Freeman and Company. http://kidshealth.org/parent/diabetes_center/words_know/diabetes_mellitus.html