What does Fast Food do to the Brain
Almost everyone on Earth has had fast food at least once in their life. Fast food is fast, tastes good, inexpensive, and is literally everywhere. Most people worry about how unhealthy fast food is, and the harm it can cause to the body. However, most people don’t think about how fast food can affect and influence the human brain. As it turns out fast food affects the brain in many ways, such as our emotional state, hunger, happiness, and many other things.
Eating fast food has shown signs of addiction. According to Kris Gunnars, the reward system in our brains makes us want to participate in pleasurable acts, such as eating tasty foods. The reward system was designed to reward you whenever you do something that helps your survival. Eating keeps us alive, so the brain releases the chemical dopamine. However, eating fast food releases a ridiculous amount of dopamine and the brain can become overwhelmed by the amount of pleasure, so it gets rid of some of the dopamine receptors to balance things out (Kris Gunnars, How Food Addiction Works(and What to do About it), Healthline.com).
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In this way, fast food and junk food are like drugs because once you have developed a tolerance to it you have to have more of it to feel the same amount of pleasure as you did before. This is also why people get cravings because they want to feel pleasure, so they crave the foods that give them a lot of pleasure. Just like drugs make you depressed so can fast foods. In a study published by Public Health Nutrition journal, studies show that people who eat lots of fast food are 51 percent more likely to be depressed, than those who barely eat fast food or don’t eat it at all. They are also more likely to be single, less active, and have poor dietary habits (Platforma SINC, Link Between Fast Food and Depression Confirmed, ScienceDaily.com).
Fast food inflames the hippocampus- apart of the limbic system and is associated with making new memories, learning, and emotions- and reduces the production of young neurons. Inflammation of the brain and the reduction of young neurons has been led to depression(Alexandra Ossola, Stress Could be Destroying Your Brain-Heres How, Popsci.com). This also is what causes people to keep eating fast foods because they make people happy. It is a cycle: “… Junk food can make us feel pleasure when we are sad, so we eat more, which makes us sadder.”
Fast food can also make you impulsive. Fast foods catch people’s attention, to curve the temptation of fast food, you must have the prefrontal cortex. However, this area of the brain doesn’t mature until the early 20’s. This is why many teenagers make impulsive decisions. Research has also found that children who consume lots of sugar packed drinks are more prone to having altered brain development.
A study was done by RMIT led by Amy Reichelt, to study the effects that sugary drinks have on brain development. They fed adolescent rats sugar water and tested their decision-making skills as adults. The results showed that the rats that had consumed the sugar water as adolescents had a harder time following rules as adults(Amy Reichelt, Five Ways Junk Food Changes Your Brain, RMIT.edu).
If you apply this research to people who eat sugary foods, you can see why they are so impulsive and have a harder time making decisions such as staying away from fast food and junk food. If your still hungry after eating a Big Mac and two medium fries, that could be because you ate fast food. Studies show that the ingredients in fast food can make you hungrier even after you just ate. Fast food has many things in it, some of these things are, trans-fat, high fructose corn syrup, and lots of salt.
The trans-fat in fast foods inflames your gut, which makes you feel as if you haven’t eaten enough, the high levels of high fructose corn syrup spikes insulin levels, and the large amounts of salt cause dehydration(WDIV, Why You’re Still Hungry After Fast Food, Clickondetroit.com). These three things trick your mind into thinking that you haven’t had enough to eat yet. It is said that artificial sweeteners in fast food can increase the appetite by 40 percent (WDIV, Why You’re Still Hungry After Fast Food, Clickondetroit.com).
This is what causes people to overeat, and most of the time people eat the same thing that increased their appetite so that they can decrease their appetite. For many, fast food is very convenient and eaten all the time. However, I feel that if people knew what fast food does to their mental state, they would eat it less often. Fast food is attributed to causing hunger, depression, and even addiction. Everyone should know how his or her food is affecting them. We should all make better choices when it comes to what’s on our plate because we all deserve to healthy, physically and mentally.