Fair warning dahlinks, I'm about to drop the mike....
If you've been following this blog for a while, you know I'm a food-loving nutritionist. I don't do deprivation or restriction. I believe health is the result of an accumulation of consistently applied healthy habits. And rather than obsessing over cutting out foods, I love to add in healthier foods, to crowd out the stuff that really isn't doing you any good.
But when it comes to deep fried fast foods and processed snack foods I want them out, out OUT of your diet - and for good!
When you eat deep fried foods whether they are processed packaged “junk” foods, or at a takeaway, cafe or restaurant, you don’t have any choice or control over the type of oil used. You have no idea how high it has been heated, not how many times.
The more oils are heated the more they oxidise, degrade and change chemically. And the more they can seep deep into and saturate the foods that are fried in them.
And that's VERY bad news... Let me tell you why:
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE’s)
These are products that form in the bloodstream via the process of “glycation”: when protein or fat combines with sugar - or we can ingest AGE's when we eat foods that have been deep fried in oils that have been repeatedly heated to extremely high temperatures. So basically, any time we consume deep fried packaged “junk food” like potato chips or anything liberally dusted in orangey cheese-flavoured powder, or any deep fried fast food or restaurant food, we are consuming Advanced Glycation End Products.
And here’s the thing: notice their acronym is AGE? Well that’s a pretty apt acronym, because they are known to cause inflammation (also known these days as “inflamm-ageing”!) and oxidative stress. This is linked with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, alzheimers and - you guessed it - cellular ageing! And trust me chickens: cellular ageing shows on your skin. So to fight ageing, fight AGE's! #yourewelcome
Acrilamides are toxic compounds found in certain foods that have been heated above 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit). Deep fried starchy carbs like french fries, hot chips and potato chips have been found to contain the highest levels.
Animal studies have demonstrated a link between acrylamide consumption and several types of cancer. Warnings about foods containing acrylamide have been issued in the USA and the UK. And whilst the jury is still out on its impact on humans, at my place we practice what is known as “the Precautionary Principle”. Basically, we avoid things that have a question mark over them - until the science firms up and shows us they are safe.
No one ever died from deep-fried-food-deficiency, so we know we are pretty safe avoiding the fatty-crispy stuff while the scientists dig a little deeper!
The fast food and processed food industry just LOVES trans fats. They are good news for corporate bottom lines and extremely bad news for our health. Trans fats are manufactured by chemically treating liquid vegetable oils with hydrogen so that they become solid at room temperature. They take a long time to go rancid and are a valuable ingredient if your food production is of the industrial-manufactured-money-making variety!
A growing body of evidence has demonstrated that trans fats elevate our “bad” LDL Cholesterol (especially the super-dangerous small-particle LDL Cholesterol that can infiltrate our artery walls and cause unstable plaques!) whilst lowering our “good” or “protective” HDL Cholesterol. They are linked with obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, endothelial dysfunction (that’s dysfunction of our arteries and blood vessels). Because of these frightening health consequences, as far back as the 1990’s steps were taken to seek processed food manufacturers' co-operation and fast food companies to reduce their use of trans fats. But processed food manufacturers put profits before their consumers health.* And they are still using them, with full knowledge of the health impacts... In fact, the most recent Australian Health Survey showed that the average Australian is still ingesting them. They are still in our food supply and we need to be wary to make sure we are not unknowingly ingesting them! There are at present no laws in Australia compelling food manufacturers to declare how much trans fats are in the processed foods we buy from the supermarket, so we have no way to know if we are making a healthier choice.
So steering clear of deep fried fast foods and packaged processed foods at the supermarket is the best way to go. Your health and longevity is way too precious to risk simply because the processed food industry finds dangerous trans fats more convenient and cost-effective than healthier options. <mic drop>
Deep fried snack foods are energy dense, and micronutrient poor. And because they are so energy-dense, their consumption leaves us at risk of overnutrition - unless we are both extremely careful about how much we consume AND have ninja-level willpower to ensure we stop reaching for more.
This hasn't really hit the mainstream press (or wellness blogosphere) yet, but scientists are increasingly talking about obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease as diseases of “overnutrition”. I wrote about the dangers of overnutrition here. I really recommend you get familiar with the concept, and use it as a helpful rule-of-thumb when making food choices!
Risk of Dyslipidemia and Heart Disease
Taking in large amounts of fats at one sitting, especially if they have been repeatedly heated to very high temperatures, is going to have an adverse impact on your blood lipids. And that’s not good. Elevated LDL cholesterol particles can circulate in your bloodstream, stick to artery walls forming fatty streaks, or infiltrate your endothelium (artery walls), forming plaques that could rupture and cause heart attack or stroke. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat! Especially when there are soooo many other delicious alternatives to snack (or feast!) on.
Do they ever taste as good as you think they will? And how about how they make you feel?
I’m all for eating the occasional “sometimes food” treat, to be enjoyed fully and without a hint of guilt. Especially if it’s absolutely delicious. But think about it… How many of these deep fried foods are actually genuinely delicious? Most of them leave an icky film in your mouth and a queasy feeling in your stomach (and an extra spare tyre on your waist). You can get just as much delight from eating foods that will make you feel amazing afterwards, and support your long-term health and longevity.
The primary purpose of these foods is to generate corporate profit. Not to alleviate hunger. Not to meet an important nutritional need. Just to boost the bottom-line of a multinational company.
Most deep fried fast foods and packaged snack foods are not cooked from scratch from real-food ingredients. Rather, they are the product of decades of food engineering by teams of scientists employed by big multinational companies using cheap commodified food ingredients. They are designed to be hyper-palatable, extremely satisfying in the immediate moment, and moreish almost to the point of addiction.
But one thing I can guarantee you is that they are not designed to improve your health, extend your life or protect you from chronic disease. In fact, quite the contrary.
So here’s my bottom line: just stop!
You do not need these foods! There are soooooooo many other - far more delicious - foods you could be snacking on. Foods that won’t place you at risk of chronic disease or an early death with regular consumption.
* Seriously they do. Corporations are obliged to maximise shareholder value, and to comply with laws of the jurisdictions in which they operate. And that's it. So unless a country passes laws to ban harmful ingredients like trans fats, the food manufacturers generally will not remove them - unless consumers just stop buying the products (thereby lowering their profits and share value). Oh, and guess what? The processed food industry spends BILLIONS opposing any form of legal regulation dictating their products or ingredients or advertising. I'll be writing more about this in the coming months, so stay tuned!
Cahill LE, Pan A, Chiuve SE, Sun Q, Willett WC, Hu FB, Rimm EB. Fried-food consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease: a prospective study in 2 cohorts of US women and men. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2014 Aug 1:ajcn-084129.
Gertz C, Klostermann S. Analysis of acrylamide and mechanisms of its formation in deep-fried products. European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology 2002; 104(11):762–771.
Tareke E, Rydberg P, Karlsson P, Eriksson S, Tornqvist M. Analysis of acrylamide, a carcinogen formed in heated foodstuffs. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2002; 50(17):4998–5006.
Teegala SM, Willett WC, Mozaffarian D. Consumption and health effects of trans fatty acids: a review. J AOAC Int. 2009;92:1250–1257.
Mozaffarian D, Aro A, Willett WC. Health effects of trans-fatty acids: experimental and observational evidence. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(Suppl 2):S5–S21.
Gadiraju TV, Patel Y, Gaziano JM, Djoussé L. Fried food consumption and cardiovascular health: A review of current evidence. Nutrients. 2015 Oct 6;7(10):8424-30.
"You Can Help Cut Acrylamide in Your Diet", U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm374855.htm
"Acrylamide," American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/acrylamide