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  • Jenny Chin

Processed Food and Inflammation

Jenny Chin, HK BioTek Intern

Today, processed foods, including fast food, has been easily integrated as a part of mainstream culture. Although they are cheap, quick, and affordable meals, the nutritional content reveals that it is not healthy. A fast food meal comprises of high amounts of calories, fat including saturated and trans-fats, refined sugar, and sodium (8). Diets like these can increase the likelihood of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease (5). Inflammation is an important process of the body where healing occurs and protecting against viruses and bacteria (4). Acute or chronic inflammation can lead to a weaker immune system and therefore be more susceptible to infections.

Evidence has shown that refined sugars can increase the release of inflammatory cytokine markers, which are important cell signing proteins in response to inflammation (1, 6). The white blood cells, involved in immune function, are decreased as a result of refined sugars (6). Processed foods with a high glycemic load boost inflammation (2). Aside from sugars, high sodium intake can also increase inflammation by releasing pro-inflammatory cytokines (5). Results of other studies show that saturated fats prompt inflammation of fat tissue (1). Especially in women, trans-fats are indicators of systemic or chronic inflammation (6).

Supersize Me, a popular documentary, followed a man who consumed only McDonald’s meals for thirty days (3). It revealed what fast food could do to the body such as gaining body weight, enduring depression, energy loss, and heart irregularity.

Although it is acceptable to enjoy processed foods from time to time, those should we wary on what damages and negative effects these types of foods can impact the body.


  1. "8 Food Ingredients That Can Cause Inflammation." Fo od Ingredients and Inflammation. Arthritis Foundation, n.d. Web. 25 July 2016. <>.

  2. "Diet and Inflammation." That Sugar Film. That Sugar..., n.d. Web. 26 July 2016. <>.

  3. "Super Size Me." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 25 July 2016. <>.

  4. "What You Eat Can Fuel or Cool Inflammation, a Key Driver of Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Other Chronic Conditions - Harvard Health." Harvard Health. Harvard Medical School, Sept. 2005. Web. 26 July 2016. <>.

  5. Manzel, Arndt, Dominik N. Muller, David Hafler, Susan Erdman, Ralf A. Linker, and Markus Kleinewietfeld. "Role of “Western Diet” in Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases." PubMed Central. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 1 Jan. 201 Web. 25 July 2016. <>.

  6. Mozaffarian, Dariush, Tobias Pischon, Susan E. Hankinson, Nader Rifai, Kaumudi Joshipura, Walter C. Willett, and Eric B. Rimm. "Dietary Intake of trans Fatty Acids and Systemic Inflammation in Women." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2004. Web. 25 July 201 <>.

  7. Myles, Ian A. "Fast Food Fever: Reviewing the Impacts of the Western Diet on Immunity."Nutrition Journal. BioMed Central, 17 June 2014. Web. 25 July 2016. <>.

  8. Smith, Melinda, Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal. "Healthy Fast Food." N.p., Apr. 2016. Web. 22 July 2016. <>.

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