I can’t remember the last time that I ate fast food, let alone McDonald’s, honestly. I do remember going on road trips with my family as a kid and eating their french fries, but as I got older I began to shy away from fast foods because I felt bloated and gross.
Today I want to take a look at how unhealthy McDonald’s really is for you, and discuss the reasons why McDonalds is bad.
Over the years, there has been a lot of heat on fast food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and others. Lately, a number of fast casual restaurants have popped up; especially in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I’m referring to spots like Chipotle, Num Pang, Panera Bread, and SweetGreen.
I am focusing on McDonald’s in this post, but as I did research for this article, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the same ingredients are found in other restaurant’s foods as well. You’ll have to do your own research.
Even some of the best fast casual dining spots like these have McDonalds and other fast food chains running for their money. In the United States, they fell 2.2% in May 2015, much worse than the 1.7% Wall Street analysts were anticipating, according to Consensus Metrix.
So what did McDonald’s do to rise above their competition and get back on the positive side of the graph? They offered breakfast all day long of course. As a result, 2016 has been a strong year for them.
But here’s the kicker…
How unhealthy is McDonald’s food, and what exactly do they put in it?
Good Ingredients, Good Food
The first few words on McDonald’s website reads:
“Good Ingredients, Good Food.
Our goal is quality food above all else. From the potatoes that become World Famous Fries to the fresh produce in our salads and the 100% pure beef in our burgers, we’re committed to serving you the very best.”
When I think of good food I think of my great grandmother’s Italian food made from scratch. Oh what I would do to have one more meal from her!
But on a serious note this is crazy:
In 2014, approximately 36,258 McDonald’s restaurants functioned worldwide and served more than 69 million people each day!
It seems like some people don’t know what good food is and haven’t really taken a look at the food facts and ingredients in McDonald’s food.
To give you an idea of the ingredients in a hamburger from McDonald’s, take a look at the picture below.
One doctor held on to a Happy Meal for over 2 years to show his patients that McDonald’s burgers and fries don’t rot. The picture below is a McDonald’s meal that is 2 years old. It doesn’t really look more than an hour old to me…
Still not convinced that your Big Mac and fries are bad for you? Take a look at the McDonalds french fries vs Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) fries in the jars below.
The fries sat in a jar for 4 years from 2008 until 2012. I’ll let you build your own conclusions before we get a little more technical with the ingredients below.
Holding onto fast food for long periods of time isn’t new. Karen Hanrahan famously purchased a McDonald’s hamburger in 1996. She carried it around until 2012 as a prop to discourage people from eating fast food in favor of unprocessed foods.
So why doesn’t the food even show a sign of rotting after 2 or even 16 years, right? That doesn’t seem like it could be close to healthy for anyone. After only 3 days, my bananas go bad and I have to make my favorite banana bread recipe.
Despite all of these pictures circulating on the internet, Gallup found that 76 percent of the people surveyed thought that fast food was “not too good” or “not good at all” when it came to nutritional value.
But yet, people are still eating it! Tons of it. Let’s look at the ingredients.
Hydrogenated Soybean Oil With TBHQ
It gets worse…
Excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and a very high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, is said to promote the pathological process of many diseases. These diseases include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Autoimmune diseases
Now, soybean oil is so popular in fast foods and processed foods, that almost 20% of calories in an American’s diet comes from this oil!
To top that off, McDonald’s soybean oil contains Tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ. TBHQ is an additive to preserve processed foods.
(Alex Redmond Instagram account.)
It acts as an antioxidant, but not like the healthy antioxidants you find in fruits and vegetables. This antioxidant actually helps extend the shelf life of foods and protects foods with iron from discoloration.
So is it dangerous and unhealthy? According to Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) TBHQ increased the incidence of tumors in rats. They also mention studies that have demonstrated TBHQ to cause liver enlargement, neurotoxic effects, convulsions, and paralysis in laboratory animals.
Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
You would think that sodium acid pyrophosphate was some type of salt, right? Well, you’re somewhat correct, only because it is an edible phosphoric salt.
Sodium acid pyrophosphate is used for baking as a leavening agent and also helps foods from discoloring.
Last time I checked, french fries didn’t need any leavening, so it must be added to keep the color of this unhealthy food.
But there’s more…
Leavening isn’t the only function that sodium acid pyrophosphate is known for. It also helps retain moisture in processed meats. Hmmm…maybe this is why the 14 year old burger doesn’t rot?
According to the Center of Science in the Public Interest (CSPI):
“excessive consumption of phosphates could lead to dietary imbalances that might contribute to osteoporosis.”
Sodium acid pyrophosphate also reduces levels of the carcinogen acrylamide. It is a chemical found in french fries and potato chips.
Studies in rodent models have found that acrylamide exposure poses a risk for several types of cancers and has implications for its genotoxic and carcinogenic potential.
The National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer consider acrylamide to be a “probable human carcinogen,” based on studies in laboratory animals given acrylamide in drinking water.
(Alex Redmond Instagram account.)
However, toxicology studies have shown differences in acrylamide absorption rates between humans and rodents. Regardless, rats or not, this is pretty serious information to not take lightly.
Other phosphate additives can cause hyperphosphatemia, an elevated amount of phosphates in your blood. These phosphate levels have been linked to 12% of all deaths caused by chronic kidney disease due to an elevated serum phosphate concentration.
Pretty scary stuff huh?
Natural Beef Flavoring
Did you know that the fries at McDonalds are not vegetarian?
The original ingredient of every natural flavor is found in natural sources. Natural flavoring is used to add taste to your food products. This ingredient is then purified and extracted and added back into the food.
This multistep process makes it equally as processed as artificial flavors. If you don’t know already, processed foods are far from healthy for you.
And thanks to the beef flavoring used for the fries at McDonalds, these fries are no longer certified for consumption by vegans and vegetarians.
The next ingredient that concerns me is dextrose. Apart from salt, certain sugars are used for the preparation of McDonald’s fries.
Yes, those salty fries contain sugar too!
Dextrose is essentially a simple sugar molecule (glucose) that is commonly found in starchy food like rice and potatoes. It is made from corn and used in baking products as a sweetener. Dextrose is a carbohydrate, which is one part of your nutrition in a normal diet.
Over consumption of dextrose can lead to a series of side effects such as:
even in non-diabetic individuals. Consuming large quantities of dextrose could even spike your blood pressure to high levels.
Consuming too much dextrose can cause an excess in fat storage. Your body needs dextrose especially your brain. Your brain uses dextrose as a fuel more than any other source. When you build up extra fuel in your body, it is stored as fat. Hence, maybe the reason people consume a lot of fast food such as McDonalds are obese, is due to excess dextrose in the food.
So now you might be wondering…
If I am not diabetic, how could I experience hyper and hypoglycemia? Unlike diabetics, the cells in your body understand that large quantities of insulin produced via hyperglycemia are detrimental to your tissues. The cells start absorbing way too much of the blood sugar and the result? Low blood sugar levels.
If you have never experienced hypoglycemia, these are the symptoms to look out for:
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Chills and clamminess
- Irritability or impatience
- Rapid/fast heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
On the flip side, dextrose can cause just the opposite of hypoglycemia. Too much dextrose can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels. If you suffer from diabetes, hyperglycemia – a spike in blood sugar levels – takes place when dextrose enters your body.
When this happens, the pancreas puts in more work then needed and your body doesn’t know how to process or respond to the insulin being released. If left untreated this hyperglycemic condition could lead to:
- Tissue damage
- Death (in serious instances)
Polydimethylsiloxane is a silicon based chemical compound found in contact lenses, shampoos, polishes, and… you guessed it, McDonald’s food.
McDonald’s lists polydimethylsiloxane as an additive in their cooking oils, meaning that their chicken McNuggets and french fries are saturated in this chemical.
So why is it a big deal?
Polydimethylsiloxane was approved in 1998 by the FDA and allowed into human foods. Polydimethylsiloxane — when subjected to higher temperatures — degrades into compounds that include Formaldehyde, which is a widely recognized cancer-causing substance.
Ironically, the FDA’s decision on allowing use of polydimethylsiloxane in human foods, allows direct use of Formaldehyde as a “preservative agent in defoaming agents containing dimethylpolysiloxane …”
In other words, the FDA allows the use of a known cancer-causing agent, Formaldehyde, to “preserve” polydimethylsiloxane, which itself breaks down into Formaldehyde!
In 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released information that Formaldehyde has positive associations to larynx, brain, pancreas, and other cancers.
Even though the results are inconsistent, in my own opinion, this is enough evidence for me to start eating healthier options.
Azodicarbonamide is another chemical used in McDonald’s foods. This synthetic chemical is used to bleach the flour used to make the dough and as a dough conditioner.
NPR wrote an article in 2014 on Azodicarbonamide and how it is found in over 500 products we consume regularly. You can see that post here.
Azodicarbonamide is also a chemical used to make yoga mats and shoe soles to maintain their elasticity. According to the World Health Organization, Azodicarbonamide is of low acute toxicity but may cause asthma and skin sensitization.
Although it has been used for strengthening bread for many years now, the Center of Science for Public Interest thinks that this food additive has been poorly tested by health agencies.
Two suspicious chemicals form when bread with azodicarbonamide is baked. One of the breakdown products is semicarbazide, which caused cancers of the lung and blood vessels in mice, but poses a negligible risk to humans.
Dr. David Andrews, from the Environmental Working Group, says:
Somehow this doesn’t seem like something we should be ingesting.
There are also other chemicals and ingredients that I found in McDonald’s food which are not healthy for you, but I wanted to pick the most important ones for this article. I hope this helped and I was able to discuss why McDonalds is unhealthy for you.
Our bodies are not designed to digest and consume chemicals that cause harm. Greasy, artificial foods are not the foods I like to eat.
I say this in each article that I write; You are what you eat.
I don’t think the health issues associated with McDonald’s food is worth the connivence and/or the taste of this unhealthy, bad food.
It is vital to remember that the basis of a healthy lifestyle lies in nutritious and hygienic food habits. Start exercising regularly.
There are a lot of other diet options out there to lose weight like a keto diet or the 3 Day Military Diet. Eating too much, let alone, if any McDonalds should never be in your diet. Learn how to lose 20 pounds in a month in my other article.
The next time you see a McDonalds, ask yourself, “Are you lovin’ it?”
What are your thoughts on eating McDonald’s and other fast food chains? Comment in the section below!