Here’s yet another reason to steer clear of the fast food. (Photo: Getty ImagesJason Edwards)
We’ve all indulged in a holiday-weekend binge, or had a vacation where we threw well-rounded dietary habits to the wind. No big deal, right? Actually, according to a new study from Virginia Tech, just five days of consuming fatty foods can alter the way the body’s muscle processes nutrients.
Researchers fed 12 college-aged men high-fat diets, including sausage biscuits, mac and cheese, and butter-loaded foods. They measured the metabolic responses in the subjects’ skeletal muscles at the beginning of the study coming out of a fasting state, and after five days of eating fatty foods.
What they found? The guys’ overall caloric intake stayed the same, and they didn’t gain weight. However, after just five days on those fatty foods, the muscles’ ability to oxidize glucose was disrupted.
Here’s why that’s an issue: When we eat a meal, the body’s glucose levels rise. Muscle is a key “clearinghouse” for glucose, breaking it down for a burst of energy or storing it to be used at a later time. Since body weight is 30 percent muscle, and that muscle is a major player in glucose metabolism, alterations to normal metabolism may lead to health conditions like diabetes down the road.
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According to lead study author Matt Hulver, an associate professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the findings here are consistent with past research. However, this study is the first to show that these changes in the body happen in such a short time period.
A garden-variety American diet typically consists of 30 percent fat, and study participants were noshing on diets with a whopping 55 percent fat with 25 percent saturated fat — what Hulver calls “a sledgehammer effect” for the purpose of the study’s binge effect. However, he says the average person should still note the body’s ultra-quick response to bad dietary decisions.
“I think we all know weight gain is about consuming more calories than you burn,” he tells Yahoo Health. “But our study highlights that macronutrient consumption affects how your body responds to nutrients.”Just another reason to eat a balanced diet, and stick to roughly 25 to 30 percent fat in your diet.
Why does this metabolic shift happen in the body after just a few days? Hulver isn’t sure — and it’s one of the questions he plans to look into next. “We want to know what the mechanisms are that contribute to this, and how long does it last?”he says. “Will they respond to a meal normally again after five days?”
We’ll have to wait to see how long it takes to turn back the hands of time on a vacation from healthy eating — but for now, this study is good motivation to avoid junk food binges and stay the course. Even if you don’t see the effects of fat on the outside, you’ll know what’s happening on the inside.
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