High-Fat Fast-Food Breakfast Produces Rush of Inflammatory Factors into Blood Stream, UB Study Finds

Repeated bouts may leave blood vessels in chronic state of inflammation

By Lois Baker

Release Date: April 16, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A breakfast of Egg McMuffin and hash browns may taste good, but its high-fat, high-carbohydrate content wreaks havoc in the body's blood vessels, University at Buffalo endocrinologists have found.

"Eating that 900-calorie, high-fat meal temporarily floods the blood stream with inflammatory components, overwhelming the body's natural inflammation-fighting mechanisms," said Ahmad Aljada, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and first author on the study.

Results of the research appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Levels of inflammatory factors remained high for three-to-four hours after the high-fat meal, research showed.

"People who experience repeated short-lived bouts of inflammation resulting from many such unhealthy meals can end up with blood vessels in a chronic state of inflammation, a primary factor in the development of atherosclerosis," Aljada said.

"However, we've also shown in a study accepted, but not yet published, that a breakfast containing the same number of calories but derived mostly from fruit and fiber doesn't promote the inflammatory effect."

The research was carried out at the Diabetes-Endocrinology Center of WNY located in Millard Fillmore Hospital of Kaleida Health. Center researchers hypothesize that the influx of macronutrients (calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates and water) may alter cell behavior and activate genes to produce more powerful enzymes and mediators that potentially are more damaging to the lining of blood vessels.

"The magnitude of this acute and transient effect is dependent on the type of macronutrient and may lead eventually to a chronic pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidative state, as seen in obesity," said Aljada. "This, in turn, leads to several medical complications."

The study was conducted with nine normal-weight subjects who ate a 900-calorie breakfast -- an Egg McMuffin and hash browns -- after an overnight fast. Another eight normal-weight subjects drank 300 milliliters of water as a control group. Blood samples were taken before eating or drinking and at 1, 2 and 3 hours afterward. The samples were analyzed to determine the concentration of inflammatory mediators and oxygen free radicals.

The study focused on a pro-inflammatory factor called nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-?B), which regulates the production of several inflammatory mediators and free radicals. "This pathway was activated in all subjects following food intake and resulted in the production of several inflammatory mediators regulated by it," Aljada said.

Results also showed a mean increase of free radicals over baseline of 129 percent, 175 percent and 138 percent at the three sampling times, respectively.

The study findings provide strong support for adopting a healthy diet low in fat and high in fruits and fiber to help protect against heart disease, Aljada said.

Additional researchers on the study, all from the UB Department of Medicine, were Priya Mohanty, M.D.; Husam Ghanim, a graduate student; Toufic Abdo, M.D., Devjit Tripathy, M.D., Ajay Chaudhuri, M.D., and Paresh Dandona, M.D., center director and senior author.

The research was supported by a grant from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund.

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