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Junk Food - A dagger in our health

By Gemma | June 20, 2019 | Nutirition

After a client told me I had to watch Dr Michael Mosley’s ‘The Junk Food Experiment’ aired on itv, I couldn’t resist. After studying nutrition in depth for 4 years I knew how bad junk food is for us, however, what I was most taken in by, was the amount of people in the UK that survive solely on this food and also at how quickly it can start to cause problems. 

When they announced that on average, our nation consumes 22 million takeaway meals every week I was shocked. This is a huge amount, but actually not surprising when there are so many places to buy this kind of food from. Whilst driving to and from clients, I notice most parades of shops have a takeaway of some form and one of the most worrying things is that a lot of the times this kind of food works out cheaper than buying the ingredients ourselves. 

So how has our nation got to the point where we are eating this much rubbish? 

Time: Life is busy!!! How many of us work hard, have kiddies to look after and then have to worry about standing and thinking about what we are going to cook in the evening after a busy day? Then you have to add in the fact that one child may not like the same thing as the other so you end up making 2 versions of the same thing! It’s exhausting. 

Money and food availability: Good food produce is expensive and sometimes takes longer to source. You may have to go to 3 different places and then sometimes the one ingredient you really want you can’t find anywhere. 

Education: We have known for years that bad food choices have been driving a lot of modern diseases, however, it is only now that we are starting to see more educational documentaries that are accessible to all, starting to be made. 

I would advise from this blog you all watch the documentary if you have time if not here is a brief summary: 

Six celebrities were picked to embark on a three-week challenge of junk food eating. The experiment was designed to make them overeat foods (50% more than they need) such as: Pizza, fried chicken and burgers. The celebrities had a full medical in the weeks leading up to the experiment so that they had all base measurements. After each week the celebrities had an MOT to check how their bodies were doing in relation to the starting tests. As the experiment goes on it becomes clear quite early on that changes are happening to the celebrities’ bodies. IBS symptoms start to increase, cognitive function decreases, and risk of stroke increases. It is crazy how quickly symptoms start to show. Out of the six celebrities only three manage to complete the experiment and the test results at the end prove how damaging this food it. 

So what is junk food? 

The term ‘Junk food’ was actually introduced in the 1950’s! It is a general term that describes foods that have large amounts of calories coming from bad fat and sugar. These foods are also low in dietary fibre, protein and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals needed to keep us healthy).  Foods such as those above plus cakes, biscuits, sweets, salty snacks and sugary drinks all come under this category of food. 

Why are these foods so appealing? 

The junk food industry is huge in the UK it is reported as a revenue of £19.1 bn. The food companies know just how to entice you in. Our brains love foods that have the right texture and taste. They play on the fact we like things both: sweet and salty, crunchy and smooth, and make sure the reward centre of our brain triggered with these aspects. They also provide us with foods that melt in the mouth quite easily (popcorn, chips, ice cream, lindt chocolate balls) so that our brain doesn’t have time to register we are full, leading us to overeating. They know how to give our brain the pleasure it wants from this food so we keep going back for more. 

It's a drug!

We all say that smoking is bad, drugs are bad, too much alcohol is bad…. but so is junk food. You need to approach these foods in the same way you would do with an addiction, because lets face it we are a nation addicted to junk. To eliminate cravings you need to go cold turkey to begin with. The reason is you need to re-train your brain into not wanting these foods anymore. Regular exposure just makes you want more. It won’t be fun, or maybe it will, but in the end you will be able to have a small amount of chocolate and feel satisfied rather than having loads and feeling ill. You need to find coping mechanisms for when it feels horrid and you need to be kind to yourself. It is hard but your health will be so much better for it in the end :)

 

Resources: 

1) Junk Food (30.03.2019) Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junk_food

2) Steven Witherly - Why humans like Junk food 

3) Brian Wansink - Mindless Eating

4) IBIS World (30.03.2019) Takeaways & Fast Food Restaurants UK Industry Report, December 2018: https://www.ibisworld.co.uk/industry-trends/market-research-reports/accommodation-food-service-activities/takeaway-fast-food-restaurants.html