When you eat fast food, your taste buds may be happy, but you probably realize you’re expanding your waistline. Pretty much everyone knows that.
But gaining weight may be the least of the troubles these processed foods cause. The real danger? What they do to your immune system.
That’s right. Your immune system reacts in a dangerous way. Here’s the story…
Scientists have found that the body’s unhealthy responses to the typical Western diet penetrate all the way down into your bone marrow. That’s where changes take place that alter gene functions and can threaten your life.
All from a few bites at a fast food joint.
The Meal That Tastes Like an Infection
While your tongue may delight at the mouth feel of a fast food meal, your immune system reacts as though it just got a strong whiff of a bacterial infection.
According to researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany, this type of food – high in sugar, lacking fiber and containing damaged fats – leads immune cells to go on full alert and spread through the body, ready to aggressively attack invading pathogens.1
Of course, no infection is actually present. These foods merely stimulate your immune system into responding as if there is. The invaders sensed by the immune system are not really there. There’s only the immune system’s increased inflammation that, in the absence of pathogens, damages the body’s healthy organs.
The good news is that switching to a healthy diet that focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods can reduce this type of inflammation over time.
The bad news: Because the inflammatory effects of fast food penetrate all the way into your bone marrow (I’ll explain how in a moment), the inflammation continues for quite a while even after you make the change to healthy food.
This persistent inflammation, warn the German researchers, makes you more vulnerable to diabetes, heart disease and other life-threatening conditions like cancer. Inflammation figures strongly in all the so-called “diseases of aging.”
Bad to The Bone
The lab tests conducted by the Germans reveal that fast food increases the circulation of immune cells called granulocytes and monocytes.
“This was an indication for an involvement of immune cell progenitors in the bone marrow,” explains researcher Annette Christ.
The immune cell “progenitors” she mentions are similar to stem cells. But unlike stem cells, which are undifferentiated cells that can develop into just about any type of cell, the progenitor cells in the bones are primitive cells designed to grow into immune cells.
And as these progenitors in your bones convert into battle-ready immune cells, a vast and potent army of locked and loaded immune warriors roam the body looking for a fight.
Recovery is Not Quick
When the German scientists reinstated a healthier diet in lab animals, the acute inflammation ceased. But the unhealthy epigenetic changes in the bone marrow – shifting how the genes in the bones function – persisted for more than a month. That’s a long time in the life of a mouse.
The fact that the immune system “reads” fast food as a microbial invasion is bad enough, but researchers at the University of California at Davis have found that highly processed foods specifically lead to liver inflammation, by another mechanism altogether.2 The liver problems start when fast food changes the type of bacteria growing in the digestive tract.
The California scientists note that about 70% of the blood that flows into the liver comes from the intestines. So when fast food alters intestinal bacteria, immune system inflammatory signals are soon infiltrating liver tissue, which can set the stage for liver cancer.
Studies like these have convinced me to completely stop eating fast food and junk food. (I never cared much for it anyway, even when I was a kid.)
I understand that many people who otherwise eat a healthy diet like to indulge once in a while, but I believe you have to be cautious about ever eating foods like these. They can convert your immune system into your body’s worst enemy. You’re better off without them.