For most people, diet has a very straightforward and obvious impact on health. People who regularly consume fruits, veggies and other nutritious fare generally stay skinny well into middle age and beyond. Conversely, junk food tends to go hand-in-hand with expanding waistlines and mounting health problems. These long-term consequences aren’t the only reasons to shop (and eat) smartly; scarfing down food that are loaded with sugar, sodium, fat and calories can make getting through the day seem like much more of a challenge.
Heartburn and Indigestion – It’s hard to concentrate on work when dealing with a strong case of heartburn or indigestion. Heartburn, which affects 25 million Americans daily, is infamous for triggering burning sensations and pain in the chest area. Indigestion is hardly a walk in the park either, causing the patient to experience everything from bloating to abdominal pain to vomiting.
Both of these digestive problems can often be traced back to foods laced with grease and fat. Items that fit this description include French fries, pizza, hamburgers and various fried foods. Eating chocolate and high-fat dairy products can also cause a heartburn flare-up.
Disrupted Sleeping Patterns – Many people struggle with sleep, and regularly fall far short of getting the recommended seven to nine hours of nightly slumber. Of course, it’s even harder to achieve this goal when heartburn keeps rudely waking you up. Overnight heartburn can frequently be blamed on greasy and/or fatty meals eaten just before bedtime. In turn, this lack of sleep can make maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle more difficult.
Inability/Reluctance to Exercise – It can quite a challenge to start exercising regularly, especially for those used to leading a sedentary lifestyle. Research suggests that poor eating habits can be another roadblock to getting off the couch. A 2009 study found that fatty foods inhibited the ability of rats to exercise effectively (this study was published in the December 2009 issue of The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology).
As part of the experiment, a treadmill was used to gauge the physical capabilities of 16 laboratory rats. Once this initial step was complete, eight of these rats were subsequently placed on a diet of high-fat foods. These fattening foods had a dramatic impact on the athletic prowess of the rats, as their performance on the treadmill declined by 30 percent within a few days. Five days into this experiment, these eight rats were performing half as well as those still on a healthy diet.
Adverse Effect on Memory – The 2009 study cited above also measured the memories of its rodent subjects, both before and after the introduction of high-fat meals. A total of 32 rats spent two months learning how to navigate a complex maze. This maze featured eight different paths, each leading to a single treat. The researchers closely monitored the rats after releasing them into the maze, observing whether they could locate all eight treats without mistakenly revisiting previously-explored paths. Making this test even more demanding was that the passageways of the maze were coated with alcohol. This prevented the rats from picking up the smell of the treats, forcing them to rely solely on memory to correctly traverse the maze.
The rats proved to be more than up to this challenge; all 32 rats found six or seven treats before making a wrong turn, and some even went a perfect eight-for-eight. When half of the rats were put on high-fat diet, however, the results changed noticeably. These 16 subjects could only find an average of five treats before their memory failed them. In contrast, the other set of rats continued to maneuver through the maze with relatively little difficulty.
Lack of Energy – Everyday life can be challenging enough without battling fatigue throughout the day. If you’re consuming too much sugar, this type of energy shortage could be a regular problem. Many junk foods are packed to the brim with sugar and other sweeteners, but contain very little in the way of nutrients. As a result, the body is forced to rapidly convert this incoming sugar into energy.
Unfortunately, these sugar-fueled boosts are usually temporary, as this energy is quickly exhausted by the body’s metabolism. This ushers in feelings of lethargy and sluggishness, the telltale signs of a “sugar crash.” Aside from these problems, a sugar crash can also interfere with concentration.