Fast Food by Any Other Name…

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

December 15, 2014

  • The changing face of fast food and soft drinks
  • Don’t let Ronald McDonald fool you
  • … or anyone else, either

If you’re a baby-boomer like I am, you grew up during the explosion of fast food and soft drinks. These foods and beverages are quick, convenient and relatively inexpensive.

But today, we know there are some pretty hefty health consequences that come with over-indulging in burgers, fries, sodas and other fast-food offerings. Eat too many of them, and it opens the doors to obesity, heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, arthritis and more.

A lot of my patients, friends and relatives learned this lesson the hard way. And their children grew up seeing the devastating outcomes associated with these unhealthy food choices.

As a result, the majority of my patients are now demanding healthier food options. So are most of the other boomers I know. Better yet, their kids are also embracing the movement toward healthier foods. This newest generation of adults – people in their 20s and 30s – are being called “millennials.”

Well, with all of this going on, big companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola are finally standing up and listening to our concerns. At least, that’s what they’d like you to think.

In reality, they’re scrambling behind the scenes to regain market share and change their image to attract health-conscious consumers like you.

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Here’s what’s really happening among a few of these large organizations…

McDonalds is changing. They’ve introduced the McWrap. This new menu item is supposed to be an especially appealing choice for health-conscious millennials who want a quick and healthy meal on the run.

These wraps come in grilled or crispy. And, there are several different varieties available. You can choose between southwest chicken, chicken ranch, sweet chili chicken or chicken with bacon.

The big selling point? Lower calories – somewhere between 360 and 630 calories, depending on your choice. (Five of the choices are over 500 calories.)

But, are lower calories enough to make this a healthy food choice for you?

Let’s dig a little deeper…

Several of these wraps contain 0.5 grams of trans fats. That might not sound like a lot. But any amount of trans fats is too much. Trans fats are associated with obesity and glucose intolerance. They also cause fat and cholesterol to build up in the liver, which could lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

And, the sodium content of the wraps is nothing to cheer about. It ranges from 1,200 mg. to 1,500 mg. This is a big problem for me.

The current dietary guidelines suggest sticking below 1,500 mg. of sodium daily if you’re over 50, diabetic or have high blood pressure. If you don’t fall into any of these groups, the limit is 2,300 mg. daily. But I don’t agree with that.

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There’s absolutely no reason anyone should be getting more than 1,500 mg. of sodium each day. That’s because excess salt fans the flames of inflammation. It shoots your blood pressure up and increases your chances of a heart attack or stroke. It even makes you age more quickly, by shortening your telomeres.

Here’s another concern…

While it sounds like these wraps would be low-carb choices, they aren’t. In fact, their carbohydrate content is higher than many of the regular food items on McDonalds’ menu – including all of their burgers, most of their other sandwiches, and several of the breakfast items. And, I’d bet my bottom dollar that the carbs aren’t the healthy kind.

What does that mean for you? When you eat one, your blood sugar will shoot up, and high levels of insulin will be released. If your insulin levels stay high for too long, your fat cells will get locked up and make you store fat. The next step along the road? Diabetes and obesity.

I don’t know how big these wraps are. But, if it takes two to fill you up, all of these risks are doubled.

This sends a clear message that you shouldn’t let the shenanigans of the fast-food industry lure you into false promises of health. And, the same thing goes for the big cola companies. Just take a look at what PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have been working on…

Soft drinks are your nemesis. I don’t care whether they’re sugar-sweetened, artificially sweetened or loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. They’ll kill you sooner rather than later.

These days, bottlers are losing a great deal of their market share. That’s because millennials aren’t gulping sodas down the way baby boomers did. I say, good for them! But now, these companies are working hard to reposition themselves and regain their foothold in the industry.

Not only are they producing more and more non-soda products. Now they’re attempting to introduce “healthy” colas.

In recent months, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo introduced stevia-sweetened soft drinks. This is an all-natural, calorie-free sweetener that doesn’t carry any of the risks you find with refined sugar or artificial sweeteners.

This sounds like a great idea. But…

According to reports, Pepsi’s new stevia product contains 30 percent less sugar than regular Pepsi. That means it drops from 41 grams of sugar per serving to just under 30 grams. The same appears to be true for Coke… a third less sugar than their regular Coke product.

While this is marginally better than the original products, it’s still way too much sugar to consume on a regular basis. So, don’t fall for the marketing gambit. Instead, stick to a healthy regimen of water, green tea and organic juices.

Remember, you are the one in charge of your health. Do your research, demand the best, and don’t be lured in with misguided marketing practices.

Machado RM, et al. “Intake of trans fatty acids causes nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and reduces adipose tissue fat content.” J Nutr. 2010 Jun;140(6):1127-32.

Haidong Zhu, et al. “Abstract MP64: High Sodium Intake is Associated with Short Leukocyte Telomere Length in Overweight and Obese Adolescents.” Circulation. 2014; 129: AMP64.

Malik VS et al. “Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes Care.2010;33:2477-2483.

Fung TT. “Sweetened beverage consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;89:1037-1042.

Gardener H, et al. “Diet soft drink consumption is associated with an increased risk of vascular events in the Northern Manhattan Study.” J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Sep;27(9):1120-6.

Assy N, et al. “Soft drink consumption linked with fatty liver in the absence of traditional risk factors.” Can J Gastroenterol. 2008 Oct;22(10):811-6

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