It takes surprisingly few days of a junk diet to mess with your metabolism. Just five days of pounding your body with fatty foods is enough to alter your body’s healthy response to food, according to new findings by a small study published in the journal Obesity.
When food is eaten, the level of glucose in the blood rises. Under normal eating conditions, your muscles oxidise this glucose for energy or stores it for later use.
The researchers wanted to look at how skeletal muscles adapt when we feed our bodies with fat-laden processed food, so they put some healthy young men on a Westernised diet featuring foods like mac and cheese, ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise and butter, and fatty microwavable meals—where 55 per cent of their calories came from fat. The control diet was about 30 per cent fat.
The results: a work-week’s worth of a fatty diet reduced their muscles’ ability to oxidise glucose. It’s the first study to prove that the change happens so quickly.
“Most people think they can indulge in high-fat foods for a few days and get away with it,” says Matthew Hulver, an associate professor at Virginia Tech and the study’s lead author. “But all it takes is five days for your body’s muscle to start to protest.”
“Five days is a very short time. There are plenty of times when we all eat fatty foods for a few days, be it the holidays, vacations, or other celebrations. But this research shows that those high-fat diets can change a person’s normal metabolism in a very short time frame.”
While the study participants didn’t gain weight or show any changes to their overall insulin sensitivity, the findings suggest that longer exposure to a diet of this kind might lead to insulin resistance down the road, which in turn can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and, of course, weight gain.
Don’t panic, though. Remember that exercise increases your metabolism, and can possibly reverse this effect. Ignite your metabolism to counter your vacation food binge.
Image courtesy of National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia Commons