We all know that too much of anything probably isn't a good thing. We all know that eating foods high in fat probably isn't good for us. But what exactly are the risks of eating too many high-fat foods?
A Love Affair
Americans have a love affair with food. Unfortunately, all too often the foods we love are simply loaded with fat. From fast food hamburgers, to onion rings at a bar and grill, to the ice cream we have for dessert, many of our favorites, if not eaten in moderation, can lead to serious health issues. What exactly happens if you eat fat-laden foods to excess?
The first (and most obvious consequence) of eating a diet high in fat is an increased risk for obesity. This is primarily because fat has a higher "calorie density." According to Phillip Allen Wood, in his book How Fat Works, one gram of fat has about nine calories, as compared to one gram of carbohydrates (sugars and starches) or protein, which have only four. Because of this higher density, it is much easier to consume a larger amount of calories in a smaller amount of food.
Additionally, any extra calories that your body doesn't use right away are stored as body fat. This is true whether those calories come from fat or from carbohydrates. However, studies have suggested that carbohydrates are more easily metabolized by the body -- that is, it is easier for your body to burn calories that come from carbohydrates. Fat calories, on the other hand, are more likely to turn directly into body fat.
The most obvious consequence of obesity is the effect it has on your physical appearance -- you become fat. However, there are also many serious health problems associated with obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity is linked to:
Increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke Increased risk of type two diabetes Several types of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer High blood pressure Gynecological problems, including infertility Osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint and bone disorders Sleep apnea and other sleeping disorders
In other words, obesity is not only linked to disorders that can decrease your quality of life, but is also linked to disorders which can considerably decrease your life expectancy.
Although obesity is possibly one of the more serious consequences of eating too many fatty foods, there are several other disorders that can be caused by or worsened by high fat consumption. One example is acid reflux disease. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), acid reflux disease occurs when your esophagus works improperly and allows stomach acid to escape the stomach. This causes severe heartburn, and can lead to more serious problems, such as ulcers or cancer of the esophagus.
Although its causes are unknown, it has been suggested that obesity is one factor. What is certain is that eating fried or fatty foods can be a "trigger" for those who already suffer from acid reflux disease, causing the symptoms to worsen, or to become more frequent.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
According to the NIDDK, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a digestive condition characterized by bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhea or constipation. Although, like acid reflux disease, the ultimate cause of this condition is unknown, it is known that high-fat foods worsen symptoms. Although it is not believed that IBS leads to more serious health problems, it is safe to say that it is a condition which causes extreme discomfort, and decreases your quality of life.
While it is obviously impractical (if not impossible) to eliminate all fatty foods from your diet, it is a simple matter to reduce the amount of fat you consume. Avoid fried foods. Buy lean cuts of meat, and reduce the size of the portions you eat. Use cooking spray instead of butter when preparing foods. Moderation is the key. Perhaps more importantly, increase your amount of physical activity -- it's the only way to burn the excess calories you do eat, and it will help keep the weight off once you've lost it.