Can a fast food binge have negative long-term effects on our health? - The Health & Wellbeing Studio

Fast Food…. Most of us know it isn’t good for us, but it’s everywhere! And our busy lives can have us reaching for food that is quick, easy and at the end of the week, preferably delivered! Some may avoid having fast food regularly, keeping it to an occasional treat, “Its Friday and I’ve been good this week, eaten well and exercised. I’m going to treat myself to takeout.”

With the fast food epidemic continually on the rise. New restaurants popping up on every corner and delivery services making ordering food as easy as, scroll, select, and click to order. Is it really that bad if we occasionally cave to the convenience and “yumminess” that is fast food? And can there be unanticipated negative long-term effects on our immune system if we do?

According to a new study (published January 11, 2018, in the journal Cell), “fast food makes the immune system more aggressive in the long term”.  “What…?” you ask. “We thought that to much fast food just makes us gain weight!”

The study, conducted on mice that were genetically predisposed to develop atherosclerosis (a type of cardiovascular disease), reported the effects a Western Diet, rich in fat and sugar, had on their immune function.

The Western Diet caused a body wide inflammatory response, which then faded away after the mice began eating a healthy diet. Which makes sense, as there is little doubt that what we eat affects inflammation. But what was even more interesting is that the Western Diet caused changes in the immune cells of the mice. In particular – the infection fighting cells known as white blood cells. And what’s scarier, these changes didn’t reverse when the mice resumed a healthy diet, despite the disappearance of inflammation.

What does this mean?

The Western Diet, high in fat and sugar, has a bad reputation for a reason! Now we have evidence that fast food can trick the immune system into thinking there is an infection or in other words a threat! And the result…. An inflammatory immune response, causing body wide inflammation that arms the immune system to respond more potently next time the threat is present, or we eat fast food!

With obesity, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory health conditions such as autoimmune diseases on the rise, I ask you the question…. Is eating highly refined fast food worth it? Maybe it’s time consider ditching that greasy burger, chips and soft drink, for a healthier alternative. Focus on a healthier future and reduce your immune systems need to continually feel under threat but the foods you eat.


Written by Melbourne Naturopath Bianca Potenta

© The Health & Wellbeing Studio 2018



1.       Patel K, Does fast food make the immune system more aggressive in the long term?, 16.1.2018 (viewed 8.2.2018)
2.       Christ A, et al. Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming . Cell. (2018)
3.       Minihane AM, et al. Low-grade inflammation, diet composition and health: current research evidence and its translation . Br J Nutr. (2015)
4.       Sears B. Anti-inflammatory Diets . J Am Coll Nutr. (2015)

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