It Takes Only One Unhealthy Meal to Damage Your Arteries

10/31/2012

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You're craving that hamburger, fries, and a soda so much so, in fact, that you're willing to strictly adhere to your diet for the rest of the week. But what if every meal matters? Before you dive head first into your favorite junk food meal you may want to read this.

A recent study shows that each and every junk food meal may damage your arteries. A meal composed of mostly saturated fat has a completely different impact on the arteries when compared to a meal made up mostly of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, according to Science Daily

Research at the University of Montreal led by Dr. Anil Nigam of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Center (EPIC), shows that the impact of junk food versus a Mediterranean diet meal are dramatic. 

Researchers looked at the inner lining of the blood vessels, or the endothelial function, after consumption of these two types of meals. Endothelial function is closely linked to the risk of developing coronary artery disease. 

According to Science Daily:

The results were established in 28 non-smoking men, who ate the Mediterranean-type meal first and then the junk food-type meal one week later. Before beginning, the men underwent an ultrasound of the antecubital artery at the elbow crease after fasting for 12-hours to assess their baseline endothelial function. The researchers then tested the effects of each meal. The first was composed of salmon, almonds, and vegetables cooked in olive oil, of which 51% of total calories came from fat (mostly monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats.) The second meal consisted of a sandwich made of a sausage, an egg, and a slice of cheese, and three hash browns, for a total of 58% of total calories from fat: extremely rich in saturated fatty acids and containing no omega-3s. At two hours and four hours after each meal, participants underwent further ultrasounds to assess how the food had impacted their endothelial function.

The junk food caused the arteries to dilate 24 percent less than in a fasting state. But after eating a Mediterranean arteries dilated and pumped blood normally. The results were immediate. 

We think of heart health as something that happens over time but this study shows that you can impact your heart immediately but eating a diet loaded with saturated fats. It seems our bodies crave the good fats and have trouble coping with the bad. 

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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