The fact that junk food is bad for you is news to no one, but that doesn’t stop us from drowning our sorrows in a tub of ice cream, or devouring an entire bag of Doritos by ourselves to help us through Canadian winters. (#Stormchips, anyone?) Unfortunately though, we may have underestimated the negative impact they have on our well-being. A new study out of Australia claims that our junk food dependency is “more deadly than war, famine, and genocide.” That’s right, eating too much junk food can kill you faster than not having enough to eat in the first place.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) conducted an experiment on rats that were fed a diet of junk food for two weeks, and measured the impact on their brain. What the scientists discovered was that the junk food impacted the rat’s natural ability to stop eating when full, and instead caused them to overeat to the point of illness. The worst part is that when they rats returned to their regular lab diet after the two weeks they were still overeating. The junk food had a permanent impact on their ability to regulate their caloric intake, which says a lot about the obesity epidemic we’re currently witnessing in North America. One of the UNSW scientists also hypothesizes that people who have been eating a diet high in junk food may be more susceptible to junk food adverts, making it even harder for them to avoid those items.
Now, before you go thinking, “Well, if the damage is done I might as well have another Kit-Kat,” keep in mind that overeating vegetables can’t kill you like refined sugar can. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 2.8 million people die each year from obesity-related illnesses, such as heart disease and stroke. That’s an alarming number. If it’s too late for us to change how much we’re eating, we can at least still change what we’re eating, and that is an important takeaway here. When Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine,” he definitely wasn’t talking about a Big Mac and fries.