How Junk Food Harms Your Brain



Our brains are running 24/7. During our movie marathons, mindless scrolling, and even while we sleep. Such an amount of energy consumption requires constant refuelling. Like gas to vehicles, proper nutrients fuel the brains’ performance. In modern society nutritional quality and requirements are often ignored as fast food chains, namely McDonald’s, have seen massive success grossing $570 billion. While the wonderful mix of favors explodes in your mouth, many fail to consider the source of this pleasure and the harm of junk food.

Some people argue that fast food is merely processed food, combined with seasoning, to create the popular flavours we crave. For instance, a hamburger is made from ordinary bread buns, vegetables, meat, and sauce. However, high-sugar, high-sodium, and high-fat additives are present in the everyday edibles. The unhealthy content tackles the brains’ reward system, which encourages this beneficial behaviour of eating. As people consume foods, the brain releases dopamine and interprets the chemical as pleasure. Nonetheless, processed food disturbed our system as our ancestors had never experienced this amount of energy from our meals. Not surprisingly, repeating the irregular dopamine release is essentially the same as cigarettes and drugs. Constantly eating junk food, forces the brain to move dopamine-receptors to balance the amount of dopamine. As the body develops tolerance, people begin to seek more fast food to enhance the dopamine-levels, resulting in withdrawal if chemical activity is low.


Long-term effects of junk food include the damage of cognitive ability as well as mental and physical health. Consuming too many calories harms the formation of healthy, functioning hippocampal synapses and hinders people from learning and memory. For rats, their hippocampus was impaired, and the inflammation lasted three weeks after they returning to a healthy diet. Even though they cannot perfectly model humans, their hippocampus works similarly to us. More importantly, it also assists in regulating stress, meaning its failure will be disastrous to one’s mental health. The last step of this unhealthy cycle is the increased craving for more energy.


A hamburger or a pack of fries alone, will not harm the body much, yet every meal of junk food adds up the physical damage. Despite scientific proofs for its harm and increasing obesity rate, the junk food market is still flourishing and expanding, make one question the future of the human’s menu.


Written by Yuning Gu

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