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Processed food as a child, a dangerous habit

Person eating a hamburger

Children sometimes surprise us by craving food from a fast food chain or a snack that they have not yet tried. This desire for "junk food" is introduced to them by adults and the health consequences can be irreversible.

Summer comes and on holidays, we can relax with our diet. We even take our children to a fast-food restaurant as a reward for the end of the school year or a special day. And it is true that the exceptional is not habit-forming but it is preferable to keep certain foods (and advertising) out of the reach of children. Do you want to know why?

It is also addictive, Processed food can lead to complications such as obesity, inflammatory and chronic diseases. and even depression. Poor nutrition also affects academic and extracurricular development.

Obesity risk in children

The medical community and society in general are demanding a government strategy to curbing childhood obesity. However, as long as food prices affect household economies to a large extent, it is difficult to change eating habits.

Still, there is much we can do to avoid the risk of obesity. The consumption of fast food leads to higher amounts of calories and fat or added sugars and It has been shown that children who eat this type of food have unhealthy eating patterns. The increased consumption of these foods takes away from fruits and vegetables, fibre and all the healthy, unprocessed foods needed in the diet.

Childhood obesity is a risk factor for diseases in the child's present but also in adulthood. In the short term, obesity is associated with metabolic disturbances - diabetes or hypertension, among others - and in adolescence with obesity, hypertension, high triglycerides or low levels of "good cholesterol" occur. In addition, obesity in adolescence is associated with an increased risk of developing a heart disease.polycystic ovarian syndrome. Sleep apnoea, asthma or stress are other pathologies that have been linked to childhood obesity.

In the long term, childhood and adolescent obesity develops into adult obesity. increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, diabetes and asthma.

But what should a child eat? The answer is simple, the same as an adultbut in quantities appropriate to their needs. With the exception of infant milks, which may be necessary for growth, there is no such thing as an infant food that is not justified exclusively by the market. What do children's biscuits, yoghurts or infant juices provide?

The problem with processed food is also the quantities. In many advertisements we see rations that are disproportionate to a child's needs, and this is what can lead them to ask for this type of food. And they don't know that, are at risk of becoming hooked on this type of food because of the amount of additives and sugars that release dopamine.. We will associate this food with moments of pleasure and we will always seek them out. But it is a trap that has consequences, even for children.

The inflammatory effect of processed food

At Biosalud Day Hospital always advocates a diet free of added sugars, refined flours and trans fats.. Just the ingredients contained in processed food. In addition to the effects on weight, and without downplaying their importance, this type of food also causes progressive inflammation of certain tissues in the body.

SUGAR promotes the release of cytokines, a substance that promotes tissue inflammation. SATURATED FATS trigger inflammation in adipose tissue and TRANS FATS are responsible for systemic inflammation in the body. GLUTAMATE is a flavour-enhancing additive that is also linked to chronic inflammation and liver health and REFINED CARBOHYDRATES also stimulate inflammation.

In children, inflammatory status has been shown to be related to their eating patterns and, among its main consequences at this age, is an increased cardiovascular risk.

The food can cause intestinal inflammation as do allergies or bacteria, and this, in addition to affecting the entire digestive system, allows toxins to pass through the walls of the intestine and enter the bloodstream. The intestinal permeability syndrome is a problem that can have hormonal, joint and even nervous system consequences.

In this process, our body activates an auto-immune response to foreign agents, such as processed foods. According to experts, when our body is sensitive to this type of food and provokes responses such as inflammation, it does so because it acts as if it has an chronic infection that triggers the immune response.

When we live with this sensitivity, why does our body ask for more and more sugar? Our brain needs sugar to function however, a state of intestinal inflammation is a barrier to the transport of glucose to the brain cells and therefore, the body asks us to eat more and more sugar.because our brain is asking for it, and this in turn causes more inflammation.

Therefore, processed food not only affects our weight but also our immune response. If a child or adolescent engages in such habits, their immune system will be weakened and they will be more at risk of disease. Early detection of this inflammation is important to realise the urgency of the situation in acquiring good eating habits.

Mariano Bueno

Dr. Mariano Bueno and his team

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