Everyone eats fast food, whether it’s out of convenience or as a self-indulgent snack after a bad day. Everyone knows it isn’t the best for you, but how bad could it really be? Here are some Top 10 Gross Facts About Fast Food Restaurants.
10. A Strain on the Brain
While everyone is aware that fast-food isn’t the best for your health calorie-wise, did you know that it can also have detrimental effects on the brain? Junk food contains very high levels of sugars and fats and is greatly refined. While this means the food is a whole lot tastier, it also means it’s much less healthy than many natural, unprocessed foods. Eating fast-food can cause a similar reaction in the brain to if you were eating food you were allergic to; it can inflame your mouth! Imagine eating nuggets, and your whole face starts to swell. Yikes! This reaction is called neuroinflammation and can actually cause considerable damage to your brain cells.A recent Australian study showed that as little as five days on a diet of sugary cakes, drinks, and cookies could significantly boost inflammation in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is important in receiving fullness-signaling messages from the gut, so eating a junk food diet can create a vicious cycle of damage to the neurons. The damage ultimately pushes people to eat more and more. And on top of everything else, the hippocampus is the memory center of the brain. Conducting simple memory tests, researchers have found that people who eat a lot of junk food don’t perform as well as those who eat healthy diets. And overall, they basically have reduced neuroplasticity, you know, that thing that helps you form new memories and learn things quickly? So, next time you’re cramming for an important test or nervous before a date, maybe try to lay off the McDonald’s and eat a carrot; it’s for your own good!
9. Stretchy Bread
Even if it feels like you see a McDonald’s on literally every single street corner, Subway is surprisingly the largest fast-food supplier in the world. This submarine sandwich shop has been around since 1965, was founded by Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck. It was actually one of the fastest-growing franchises in the world, and as of 2019, it had over forty thousand locations in nearly a hundred countries! When you think about it like that, maybe it’s not so shocking to learn they’re the largest single-brand restaurant chain in the world! However, this classic brand has got some dark secrets. Until recently, the bread used for sandwiches in this fast-food joint contained a chemical called azodicarbonamide – a substance previously used to create things like yoga mats and shoe soles… yummy. It adds elasticity, which is probably why the bread was so stretchy. While the company claimed that this additive was FDA approved and recognized as safe for consumption, Subway’s customers weren’t having it. This is because the chemical had been poorly tested and didn’t bring any comfort to the avid eaters. One of the breakdown products, derived from the original substance, is called urethane, a recognized carcinogen. Using azodicarbonamide at the maximum allowed amount resulted in higher levels of urethane in bread, which could pose a small, but significant risk to humans. But, worry not, Subway was successful in the development of a brand new and improved bread recipe, so you can now enjoy your subs with peace of mind.
8. Fly Eggs!
In 2017, a customer from Wawa, Ontario, claimed to have found two live maggots crawling around in his hoagie. While Wawa claimed that this was very unlikely and extremely improbable, it’s actually not that unusual for maggots to be in your food. Actually, it’s perfectly legal. Regulations sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration of the USA actually allow for some maggots to be present in certain foods. The stuff of nightmares, right? For tomato-based sauces, 30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams and 1 or more maggot per 100 grams can be present. The keywords here are or more. They also allow up to 4% of a can of cherries to have maggots (and 5% if they are brined or Maraschino) and up to one maggot (or five fly eggs) per 250 milliliters of canned fruit juice. The FDA’s sanitation standards for food processors allow for a small number of insects to remain in the food. Even if farmers apply insecticides, bugs can still find crops to eat and procreate on and can stay on even long after a crop is harvested. On their website, the FDA states that it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring unavoidable defects. And by defects, they mean rodent hairs, insect eggs, mold, animal feces, fruit flies, and, you guessed it, maggots. Basically, any gross thing you can think of and wouldn’t want to see on your plate. While, yes, these guys definitely know their stuff when it comes to what humans can and can’t consume, the idea of unknowingly eating fly eggs as part of your fast-food meal is enough to make you want to swear off of cans of tomato sauce and cherries forever.
7. Over-Sugary Drinks, And For What?
There’s nothing like the feeling of heading to your favorite fast-food restaurant on a hot summer’s day and ordering a jumbo-sized drink to quench your thirst. But have you ever noticed that it doesn’t make you less thirsty, but instead makes you feel like you’ve been wandering around a desert for forty days and forty nights? Well, there’s a reason for that. To give your soda that delicious sweet taste, many fast-food chains load their drinks with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a highly-processed substance that acts as a sugar substitute. While HFCS is practically on the same level of health as sugar, there are still some detrimental effects. Of course, there are. They’ve been shown to increase inflammation, up the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and to be harmful to your cells. While high levels of this sweet substance may make your drink tastier, they also damage your teeth’s enamel, stretch out your stomach lining, and attack your vital organs. Oh, and it makes you feel dehydrated. So, if you’re looking for a thirst-quenching drink, water is probably still your best bet.
6. Junk Food Is Addictive, Duh!
Here are some more neuroscience facts to spice up your day: the brain has a reward system that makes us want to engage in behaviors that make us feel good – like eating tasty foods. When we eat junk food, the reward circuit in our brains activates and releases the chemical dopamine. When this chemical is released, our brains can become overwhelmed by the pleasure of these rewarding foods and in response, the brain adapts and makes even more receptors for dopamine! Unfortunately, this means that you have a higher threshold for junk food – you need more of it to get the same ‘kick’ (this is also how an addict develops a tolerance to drugs). So, if we eat a lot of junk food, our brains will eventually become hardwired to seek out rewarding foods, making us crave burgers over a plate of fruits. Our brain has learned that these foods are delicious, and that’s why our attention is drawn to them when we see or smell them! If you want to learn how to resist this temptation, look no further than your own brain. The prefrontal cortex is basically the major control center in your brain. The area doesn’t mature until your early twenties, which, if you think about all the impulsive things you did as a kid, makes sense. In any case, if you want to break the addiction, make your prefrontal cortex do all the heavy-lifting!
5. The Pink Slime Conspiracy
If you’ve spent a fair share of time on the Internet, you probably remember the rumors about McDonald’s putting ‘pink slime’ in their food. This conversation dates all the way back to 2011 when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver aired a show decrying its use in the U.S. The so-called slime refers to lean beef trimmings — what’s left of the meat after all the choice cuts of beef are taken — that is treated with ammonium hydroxide, creating the infamous pink hue. Let it be said that ammonium hydroxide is used to kill off bacteria, such as E. coli. The images circulating did much to gross-out McDonald’s customers, and who can blame them? An intestine-looking pile of sludge, just chilling in what seemed to be a McDonald’s kitchen, doesn’t really sound like the most appetizing sight. After it went viral, McDonald’s tried to dispel the rumors by releasing a commercial about how Chicken McNuggets are actually made. Sneaky folks trying to derive the public’s attention. This video, which aired as an advertisement during the Canadian broadcast of the Super Bowl, is a perfect example of the new “extreme transparency” trend where corporations, especially those who have been attacked for their business practices, bend over backward to show customers how they work. While McDonald’s no longer uses lean beef trimmings, it was still used in their chicken nuggets before 2011, which is a little too recent for total comfort. Yeah, it might take a while before we stop by the Golden Arches for a late-night snack again.
4. Ice Is Worse Than Toilet Water
In 2012, a Florida student found that ice at fast-food restaurants is actually dirtier than the toilet water at the same establishment! Gross! To test her hypothesis, this student ordered cups of ice and put them in sterile beakers. Then, she went to the bathrooms, flushed the toilet once, and collected a sample. The results were shocking: she found that seventy percent of the time, the ice from the fast-food restaurants contained more bacteria than the toilet water. In several instances, e.coli, which is found in human feces, was found in the ice. But how exactly can this happen? Well, the reason the bacteria are more prevalent in the ice could be that while toilets are cleaned regularly, while ice machines are not. If you’ve ever worked at a fast-food restaurant, you know that it’s extremely difficult to clean the ice machine properly. These findings will definitely make us think twice before ordering that fizzy drink. Or at least, ask with no ice!
3. Too Many Cow Bits For Comfort
If you ever feel guilty after enjoying a Big Mac or a Whopper, the next fact may be enough to turn you into a full-on vegetarian (much to Gordon Ramsey’s dislike). Taking one bite of a big, fat juicy fast-food burger might mean you’re actually chomping away at bits and pieces from over one hundred different cows, and here’s why. After the cattle are slaughtered, the cheaper bits and pieces are all thrown together for processing. These gristly cuts of meat are mushed up into little balls and given a pump of fat, just to be safe. The result? You guessed it: a fast-food hamburger, which is then shipped off to all of your favorite fast-food chains all over the world. This is cooked up and served to the customers, who have no way of knowing how many cows they’re eating, or where these cows came from, or even which parts they’re putting into their stomachs. The grossest part is that it’s not all just meat. Researchers discovered that fast-food hamburgers are of only a little meat (around 12%), and approximately half of their weight is made up of water, with the presence of some unexpected tissue types also. These unexpected tissue types included bone, cartilage, and plant material. Perhaps if customers really knew what was in their burgers, they’d switch to a meatless diet.
2. Propylene Glycol? In YOUR Salad?
Without dressing, a salad would just be a bunch of grassy leaves no one would ever want to eat. The dressing is basically the main event. However, you might want to take another look at the ingredient list before you order your precious salad because it could contain some pretty concerning ingredients, like Propylene glycol. According to the CDC, Propylene glycol is a synthetic, colorless, odorless liquid substance that absorbs water and is used to make polyester compounds and as a base for deicing solutions by the chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries. Propylene glycol is often found in things like shampoo, shampoo, deodorant, antiperspirant, skincare lotion, cosmetics, toothpaste, mouth wash, sunscreen, baby wipes, e-cigarettes, and auto care products, and in food items such as salad dressings and dipping sauces, often ones that are used by fast-food companies. Even though the side effects are worrying, the FDA has recognized it as safe for use in food but acknowledges that it’s been known to cause nephrotoxicity (a poisonous effect on the kidneys) and renal failure in high doses. That’s comforting. Children below 4 years of age, pregnant women, and those with kidney dysfunction are particularly vulnerable as they cannot adequately eliminate propylene glycol from their bodies. This is demonstrated by a documented case of propylene glycol poisoning of an 8-month-old treated topically for 3rd-degree burns. The product applied to treat the wounds contained high amounts of propylene glycol. If you still think that the salad is the healthier choice, think again.
1. (Possibly) Bad For Your Mental Health
Even though fast-food is considered a simple pleasure of life for many, eating too much of it can actually have very negative effects on not only your body but on your mental health as well. According to a Spanish study, people who consume a lot of junk food are fifty-one percent more likely to be depressed than those with healthier eating habits. The more burgers, pizza, and fries people eat, the more at risk they are. However, according to David Katz, a higher intake of fast-food might be the cause simply because it causes poor health in general, which in turn can later lead to depression. While there’s a clear link between people who eat fast food and those who are depressed, there’s also the possibility that those who have depression are simply more likely to dine on fast-food. Excessive fast-food consumption is also linked to anxiety symptoms. The refined carbohydrates in many fast-food items can cause your blood sugar to fluctuate. Low blood sugar can increase the risk of panic attacks, insomnia, and other anxiety symptoms. In addition, the lack of omega-3 fatty acids in fried food can cause your brain to mimic anxiety symptoms. This means that if you’re prone to anxiety or depression, laying off, fast-food might actually help you reduce your symptoms!