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Here's what fast food does to your brain- [OPINION]

To be honest, how much fast food have you scarfed down during the pandemic? I must be on my 100th Door Dash order by now. While burgers and tacos feel good going down, we have no clue what it’s doing to our bodies. Not just our stomach and muscles, but our minds as well.

Let’s talk about What Fast Food Is Doing to Your Brain!

You Spend More Money!

That’s right, eating a fatty meal from your favorite burger joint may cause you to blow more cash than you usually do. Research has shown that households in neighborhoods with lots of fast food options have fewer savings in the bank. But not only do you blow cash inside the restaurant, but you can also overspend outside. It sounds crazy but thinks about this... Have you ever eaten lunch at a mall food court, and then shopped at stores you weren’t planning to go into? I mean come on, you go in for your favorite slice of pizza and you walk out with a new pair of shoes and some fresh jeans. Talk about a spur-of-the-moment spending decision. People associate fast food with instant gratification. After satisfying yourself with a cheeseburger and chicken fries, your brain wants more. Since you’re no longer sitting down to eat, your mind instantly looks for other ways to fill the void. How wild is that? Even seeing a fast food logo triggers our desire to spend. When you see those golden arches in the distance, your brain instantly goes back to a time when you were enjoying a Big Mac. Depending on your personality, you’re likely to give in and grab a quick bite, rather than save your hard-earned dollars for something more important.

You Become More Depressed

Let me just get this out of the way… Fast food makes you depressed. A whopper every once in a while might feel good, but eating it every day is just going to make you feel like trash. Research shows that people who eat fast food are 51% more likely to be depressed than those who don’t. I mean that’s pretty alarming. Keep in mind that more research needs to be done into the details. Are fast-food eaters more likely to get depressed, or are depressed people more likely to eat fast food? Which comes first? Either way, fast food affects your mood. Too many refined carbs will cause your blood sugar to fluctuate. Low blood sugar causes depressive symptoms. This includes anxiety. The refined carbs and lack of nutrients in many of your favorite options will have you feeling anxious beyond belief. A person on a diet of pizza and onion rings is going to feel uneasy compared to those who treat their body like a temple.

Let’s talk about serotonin for a second.

This is a neurotransmitter that influences your sleep habits, appetite, and mood. 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. When you eat something sugary and gross, the neurons work with your digestive system and affect your emotions. The lower your serotonin level, the more depressed you’ll be. If you need more reasons to curb your fast food habits, studies have shown that people who eat Japanese and Mediterranean diets are 25 to 35% less likely to get depressed than those in North America. That’s because their diets tend to have more veggies, fruits, and fish. The more vitamins and minerals, the better your brain will feel!

You Become Hyperactive

We often associate fast food with sluggishness. How many of us have eaten a whole pizza and then practically melted into our sofa? While this is real, the opposite can also happen. A regular diet of fast food will give you the jitters. You’ll be feeling all jumpy inside. Most of us know this as a “sugar rush”. Believe it or not, a sugar rush has less to do with actual sugar and more to do with added preservatives. Additional particles usually trigger a hyperactive sensation in your brain. One of these particles is sodium benzoate, which is found in diet soda, juice, and various condiments.

Loss of Cognitive Function

There have been multiple studies done on fast food consumption and its link to dementia and learning disabilities. People who eat a lot of burgers see a decrease in their brain function compared to those who eat healthier. For instance, research has shown that people who eat too much junk have weaker memories. They tend to perform poorly on simple memory exercises. When you eat your favorite fast food sandwich, your brain sees a reduction in neuroplasticity. This is the process that allows your brain to take in new experiences and store them as memories. Older people are also more vulnerable to dementia and Alzheimers when they eat too much fast food. If you develop insulin resistance, your brain won’t be able to create as many new memories. As a result, your overall memory will decline.

You Become Addicted

Sugar is highly addictive. While our brain usually associates sugar with chocolates and candies, we ignore just how much of it exists in fast food. A Big Mac burger on its own has close to 10 grams. Studies have shown that when a person over consumes sugary treats, they’re likely to become addicted. You just can’t get away from how good it tastes. Some experts have compared the need for sugar to that of heavy drugs.

Let’s talk about dopamine for a second.

Dopamine, like serotonin, is another neurotransmitter. Your body releases it when we engage in an activity that rewards us. Fast food is certainly no exception. When you demolish that Taco Bell combo, your brain produced a massive surge in dopamine. As a result, you want more and more.

You Get More Impatient

Endless fast food meals will only make you more irritable. There’s a reason you’ve been beeping at other cars during your latest trips to the drive-thru. Just thinking about it can make you impatient. There was a really interesting experiment done on this a while back. Remember how I mentioned the simple sight of your favorite fast food logo can tempt you? Well, this study had the subjects look at various fast food logos, and then read a sentence from a written passage. These people rushed through the passages much faster than those who weren’t shown the logos. The subjects' brains were so focused on the idea of going to eat their favorite fast food items, even if they weren’t necessarily planning to eat. It’s both neat and freaky at the same time. Fast food affects our moods in ways we don’t even realize. Sometimes, we find ourselves feeling irritated without knowing why. It’s hard to imagine that our moods can shift that drastically due to wanting a large McDonald’s fries. We should try and curb our cravings. Otherwise, people will dread being around you.

You Can’t Control Your Appetite

Fast food generally makes it harder for you to control your appetite. Let’s talk about trans fats for a second.

Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat found in both meat and dairy. The trans fat in your fried chicken meal will get in the way of your ability to control your eating habits. It’s a lot harder for you to decide when you’ve had enough to eat. Since your stomach doesn’t have time to tell your brain that you’re full, you eat a lot more than you intended. This results in weight gain. Dopamine also plays a role in your ability to control your appetite. Because you’re always looking for that dopamine rush, you aren’t spending time thinking about your diet. Should I eat this, or should I hold off for another time? Do I need to eat this KFC ten-piece, or have I had enough to eat already.

Temptation in the form of food can be a really ugly thing. I mean sure, fast food is fun to eat, but it’s garbage for your health. We don’t realize what it’s doing to us.

Photo credit: Google

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