How does processed food mess up your biochemistry?

Everyone knows that eating too much processed food/added sugar can cause weight gain and diet-related disease. But what actually triggers the biochemical chaos in your body?

Backstory 1: Insulin resistance

Sugar is a Carbohydrate, which breaks down into Glucose and Fructose molecules.

Fructose stays in your liver, while Glucose travels in your blood delivering energy to your muscle cells with help from Insulin.

If you do not use up this short-term stored energy (glycogen), it turns into body fat. Excess body fat, especially around the waist, reduces the effectiveness of Insulin, so more and more has to be secreted to metabolise the Glucose.

After a while, your bloodstream becomes flooded with Insulin (and unprocessed Glucose). This is called insulin resistance, and it can persist for many years without symptoms.

Backstory 2: Inflammation

Inflammation is your body’s immune response when it is trying to heal itself (e.g. when you have a cut or sore).

Inflammation also goes on inside your body when your biochemistry gets out of balance. Your immune system will continue to silently ‘fight’ the biochemical imbalance for weeks, months or even years, which saps your energy and damages your body.

Both insulin resistance and ongoing inflammation create opportunity for serious health issues to develop such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

No guts, no glory

‘Real’ Carbohydrate foods, such as fruit and vegetables, have lots of insoluble fibre (low GI), which regulates your appetite and supports the healthy microorganisms in your small intestine (gut microbiome).

Real food fibre fills you up and slows down digestion. This gives your microbiome plenty of time to convert nutrients to beneficial compounds, such as short chain fatty acids, which naturally suppress Insulin secretion and inflammation.

Processed food is low in dietary fibre (high GI), so nutrients leaving the stomach get absorbed rapidly, up in the duodenum, and miss essential digestive processes further down in the jejunum and ileum. You do not get those helpful short chain fatty acids, and you feel hungry again sooner – so the unhealthy cycle continues.

It is over when the fat lady sings

Meanwhile, in the liver, excess Fructose from added sugar in processed food turns into fat through a process called de novo lipogenesis. This fat can eventually develop into non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which leads to liver dysfunction and makes insulin resistance worse.

Eating too much processed food can lead to disease.

Is the momentary pleasure really worth the risk to you and your family’s health?

Download the ‘Hello Happy Guts’ poster to help educate your children about their gut microbiome, and how processed food upsets their biochemistry.