New Study Reveals That Every Single Junk Food Meal Damages Your Arteries

November 2, 2012

If you believe that hitting a fast-food from time to time, binging with a junk food meal is an ok to do, you might want to think again. A newly published study suggests that even one single junk food meal is detrimental to the health of your arteries.

The study

The study was conducted at the EPIC Center of the Montreal Heart Institute (University of Montreal), and presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress by Dr. Anil Nigam, Director of Research at the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre (ÉPIC) and associate professor at the university's Faculty of Medicine.
Dr. Nigam undertook the study to compare the effects of a junk food meal (high in “bad” fats) and a healthy meal (high in “good” fats) on the vascular endothelium, which is the inner lining of the blood vessels.
By measuring endothelial function, it is possible to determine how easily the arteries will dilate after a temporary, five-minute occlusion, following the consumption of the two types of meals. This is a very interesting analysis for researchers to perform as endothelial function is closely linked to the long-term risk of developing coronary artery disease.

The findings

The results were established in 28 non-smoking men, who ate the healthy meal (labeled as “Mediterranean”) 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 healthy one 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 junk food 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 2 hours and 4 hours after each meal, participants underwent further ultrasounds to assess how the food had impacted their endothelial function.
Dr. Nigam and his team found that after eating the junk food meal, the arteries of the study participants dilated 24% less than they did when in the fasting state.
In contrast, the arteries were found to dilate normally and maintain good blood flow after the healthy meal.
"These results will positively alter how we eat on a daily basis. Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis. It is now something to think about at every meal," Dr. Nigam said.

The conclusions reached by this study shed a new light on the idea that hitting a fast-food chain occasionally for a meal is an all right thing to do.
Even though I never eat at fast foods, I was too convinced that it was kind of an ok thing to do, every now and then. Well, I need to change that, as apparently even one single junk food meal is detrimental to our health!

The Iron You

The above story was reprinted from materials provided by University of Montreal, via Eurekalert!


  1. Not really, there have been studies like this before but they reveal more than is portrayed by this one.

    After consuming fatty acids, there is an influx of them in the blood stream, this needs to be metabolized in the muscles or stored in the adipose, hopefully these things happen or else they spill into the endothelium causing lipotoxicity and damaging it. It is not so much that the fatty acids were in the blood but where they went that matters. This is illustrated in all sorts of experiments, particularly one where omega-3 fatty acids were supplied in addition to a high fat meal, in which case the endothelium was not damaged So in the paper this article is about it wasn't that the diet that resulted in more damage to the arteries contained saturated fat, but that it didn't contain omega-3s and the "healthy" one did.

    There are also numerous interventions which help fats be metabolized properly like exercise and ones where the endothelium is simply protected

    This would all indicate that indeed it is all right to eat some fatty food now and then. I eat some every day, but I also maintain a very nutritious diet and exercise so that fatty acids are metabolized properly and don't result in damage.

    1. Thanks Stabbi for taking the time to comment

  2. Uh oh. Their "unhealthy" meal didn't seem so unhealthy to me! 3 hash browns? Don't go overboard there!