For all of those wondering if just one outrageous meal can really affect your health, we now have a definitive answer. A recent study looked at the effects of a single high calorie meal with high fat and refined sugar content in healthy individuals and the news is not good, actually it’s quite strikingly bad.
After just four hours, that one meal resulted in increased triglyceride, cholesterol, and free fatty acid levels. While that is not all that surprising, what was surprising was that the study subjects (healthy men described as ‘young, non-obese and exceptionally fit’) showed detrimental changes in blood cells and blood vessels and an immune response similar to one provoked by an infection.
The study showed the high fat/sugar meal induced changes in the blood vessels that mimic key early events in the development of atherogenesis (narrowing of arteries). It showed changes in red blood cells indicating a significant increase in inflammation, dramatic changes in the shape of the cells to morphologies that are commonly associated with Liver & Kidney disease. There was also evidence of increased white blood cells which produce pro-inflammatory molecules and are associated with athersclerosis. Lastly, the meal triggered oxidative stress mechanisms positively linked to risk of acute coronary syndromes in humans.
While this may seem overly technical and confusing, the bottom line is striking changes on many levels are found after only one high fat, high sugar, and high calorie meal. We spend a lot of time discussing with our clients the role that inflammation plays in weight gain and in metabolic disease. This study just provides some concrete evidence that points to why people can really struggle to regain momentum after falling off the ‘healthy eating’ bandwagon… there are indeed specific physiological mechanisms that have been triggered, and they have downstream effects on many systems and in order to get back to the state your body was in prior to the ‘splurge’, you are going to have to address those pathways/mechanisms until they are back under control again.
If this is the result in non-obese healthy individuals, imagine the consequences in those who are overweight or obese, have prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, or any other common metabolic conditions. Be careful about falling into the trap of ‘just one meal won’t hurt’…