Chronic Effects of Processed Foods

Garbage in, garbage out – as the old proverb says. That proverb seems to apply to many areas of life including one’s professional development, family values, and yes, of course, diet and health. In today’s America, people do not seem to think twice about what they put into their bodies if the food 1) tastes good and 2) brings them some satisfaction. However, even though it may seem like common sense that one’s diet, particularly the level of processed foods in their diet, will determine their overall health, this fact is unbeknownst to many people.

Processed foods include refined junk food, which is foods high in sugar, synthetic and unhealthy fats, preservatives, genetically modified ingredients, and additives as well as most prepackaged foods in grocery stores which are ready to eat. These foods are loaded with chemicals to preserve them since they must stay fresh for an extended period. There is a lot of research and data, which shows how a diet high in this food group damages one’s body.

In this article, we will begin by reviewing three consequences of eating a high-processed food diet unbeknownst to many people and will finish by discussing one thing people can do to help extinguish these harmful effects.

Having an Overall Less Healthy Life

This heading may seem rational and agreeable, but there is a lot more to it.

In 2014, Ian Myles, M.D., M.P.H, an esteemed researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wrote a review entitled “Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity” [1].

In the publication’s abstract, Myles notes, “The Western diet is characterized by an over consumption and reduced variety of refined sugars, salt, and saturated fat” [1]. His study’s goal was to determine the impact and mechanisms of harm that American’s over-indulgence of sugar, salt, fat, artificial sweeteners, gluten, and genetically modified foods have on one’s immune system and macronutrient levels.

His research confirmed the obvious answer: modern-day Westernized diet is setting the stage for immune-mediated diseases [2].

“While today’s modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our over abundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease” - Ian Myles, M.D., M.P.H

Speaking generally, most health issues stem from inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to certain diseases such as heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and cancer, and these are only some of the many possible ailments caused by inflammation [3].

Ingredients such as artificial trans fats, sugar, and fructose, a type of sugar, cause inflammation, but supplements such as fish oils and omega-3 fatty acids help to alleviate inflammation. To read more about fish oil’s effect on inflammation, read “Fish Oils, Omega-3s, EPA and DHA: A Review of Benefits.”

Tying this point together, increased inflammation throughout one’s life will result in a less healthy life; that is the pragmatic truth. Someone can take as many fish oil and supplements as you would like, but if they are putting garbage in, they can expect garbage out.

Having a Deteriorated Micro-Biome

Chronic, life-long inflammation is only one way a high-processed food diet will destruct one’s health. Another result is an unhealthy and deteriorated micro-biome. Everyone has a microbiome in their body, and if you are unaware of what a microbiome is, consider it the environment where the bacteria in your body live.

When you eat a lot of processed foods, your body reacts by releasing antibodies to counterattack the proteins in the food because your body considers the proteins foreign and harmful. In essence, you have an immune system reaction to what you eat.

When your diet is very high in processed foods, your body will attack every vital part of itself to defend itself from… itself [4]. This mass release of antibodies, which is meant to attack foreign invaders, actually ends up attacking your cells. Thus, we have instances of autoimmune diseases. Now, this self-attacking mechanism occurs in everyone who has a high-processed food diet, but it is more dramatic in individuals with clinically diagnosed autoimmune disorders.

This self-attacking is primarily caused by macrophages, a type of white blood cell that eats foreign material such as viruses, bacteria, and even tattoo ink. Macrophages are a vital part of the immune system, but when sugar and other substances consistently trigger the immune system through high-processed foods, macrophages will attack your cells and cause severe damage [4].

Myles even examined other autoimmune effects of a high-processed food diet [1].

  • “Simple sugars also reduce white blood cell phagocytosis and possibly increase inflammatory cytokine markers in the blood.”
  • “The complex carbohydrate fiber (but not starches), such as that found in fruits and vegetable, appear to reduce inflammation in both humans.”
  • “Saccharin and sucralose [both artificial sweeteners] as contributors to Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis via interference with homeostatic inactivation of digestive proteases.”
  • “Dietary fats alter the lipids of the membranes of immune cells, disrupting the immune functions. Yet perhaps the most concerning aspect of modern dietary fat is its ability to directly trigger the inflammatory process… The resulting inflammation in the gut can lead to a break down of barriers, allowing harmful substance to leak from the gut into the blood stream and contribute to immune dysfunction that worsens infection control.”
  • “While saturated fats are the most inflammatory, overabundance of omega-6 (n-6) poly-unsaturated fats, such as those found in most cooking oils, have also been implicated in immune response through several mechanisms including effects on TLR4 and serving as precursors for inflammatory mediators.”
  • Animal and cell-culture models have found that components in gluten may cause inflammation and disorder your immune system
  • In animal models, the grouping of pesticide-producing genetically modified corn and pesticide-resistant genetically modified soy led to amplified rates of severe stomach inflammation.


Bottom-line: The over-saturation of processed foods in American’s diets has, somehow, simultaneously caused increased levels of inflammation and tainted the body’s ability to respond to and ultimately control infections

Returning to the idea of the microbiome, there are almost 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses, and microorganisms which live in your body. This environment is referred to your body’s microbiome. Probiotics, one of the many types of bacteria in your microbiome, have been shown to counteract inflammation, produce vitamin, absorb minerals, eliminate toxins, reduce the risk of allergies, benefit one’s mood and health, and normalize one’s weight.

Excess sugar and other components in processed foods lead to increased levels of yeast in the body, which can cause an imbalance of micro-organisms, and if the imbalance creates a health issue, most doctors will tend to treat the symptom, not the cause. Thus, resulting in a deteriorated microbiome, the garbage out part of the equation.

Having a Child Who Prefers Processed Foods

Also noted in Myles’ report is evidence a mother’s diet may shape her child’s preferences in utero, children inherit their microbiome from their mother, and a father’s diet may also have an influence. This is the idea of the epigenome, the total epigenetic state of a cell.

Poor dietary choices, patterns, and lifestyles can become coded into gene expression patterns in your DNA and your body’s microbiome, which can lead to permanent changes in the balance of bacteria in your body. Thus, also resulting in DNA changes which can be passed down to children.

Myles stated, “What is perhaps of larger concern is that the harmful effects of diet can actually stretch across generations. A mother’s diet may potentially shape her child’s flavor preferences even before birth, potentially skewing their palette towards anything from vegetables to sugary sweets in ways that could influence subsequent propensity for obesity and/or unhealthy dieting” [1].

He continued, “In addition, children inherit their microbiome from their mother mostly through parturition but also during breast-feeding and development until the bacterial balance matures around two to four years of age. However, recent evidence suggests that the microbiome may also be seeded into the unborn fetus while still in the womb. When the mother’s diet causes a harmful imbalance of her bacteria, she passes this imbalance on to her child and thus fails to present the ideal commensals for a proper immune education during her child’s most critical developmental window” [1].

Fathers are not immune to this either. Evidence has shown a father’s epigenetics and DNA changes are also passed down to their children and can result in the altered early development of the child’s immune system [1]. This connection can even reach generations because the information is continuously being encoded among DNA [1]. Again, garbage in, garbage out.

Fermented Foods!

Fermented foods are perhaps one of the most beneficial foods you can eat, specifically regarding gut health. Now, eating fermented foods does not take the place of eating organic, whole grains, fresh organic meat, cage-free organic eggs, organic produce, nuts, seeds, and healthful fats – all of that is important too.

However, eating fermented foods – after the foods as mentioned above are integrated into your diet – is one of the best ways to optimize your digestive health.

Integrating fermented vegetables into your everyday diet is an excellent way to develop a healthy gut. Along with beneficial bacteria, fermented foods also help to supply vitamin K2. You can find organic, fermented foods at your grocery store. For example, good choices include lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), various pickled fermentations of turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots. Other, more traditional variations of fermented foods include sauerkraut and kefir.

If you are unwilling to try fermented foods, you are probably the person who needs to try fermented foods. Here is a challenge: pick one, processed food which takes up a large part of your diet and replace it with fermented food. How about a kefir and Greek yogurt smoothie with fresh berries? Or a container of fresh fermented vegetables? Small, continuous changes over a long period can dramatically increase and build your gut’s health.

In addition to eating fermented foods, Healthmasters’ probiotic products, Probiotic DF, Probiotic 100 Billion, and Probiotic 350 Billion, are exceptional probiotic supplements which supply your guy with a wide range of probiotics. Healthmasters’ Probiotic 350 Billion has 650 Billion CFUs at the time of packaging and includes 18 different probiotic strains.

If you have any questions about these probiotic supplements, please call our office at 800.726.1834.