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One cheeseburger could alter metabolism

Press Association logoPress Association 24/01/2017

A single cheeseburger or pizza blow-out can alter metabolism and trigger changes linked to fatty liver disease and diabetes, research shows.

While a fit body might be able to recover from one such meal, regular big helpings of rich, fatty food are likely to cause lasting damage, scientists say.

For the study, 14 lean and healthy men aged 20 to 40 were either given a vanilla-flavoured palm oil drink or plain water.

The palm oil contained a similar amount of saturated fat as an eight-slice pepperoni pizza or 110g cheeseburger served with a large portion of french fries.

Tests showed that consuming the palm oil resulted in an immediate increase in fat accumulation and reduced sensitivity to insulin, the vital hormone that regulates blood sugar.

It also raised levels of triglycerides - a type of fat linked to heart disease - altered liver function and led to changes in gene activity associated with fatty liver disease.

Levels of glucagon, a hormone that stops blood sugar falling, were also raised.

Similar effects were seen in mice given the same palm oil treatment.

The research was led by Professor Michael Roden of the German Diabetes Centre in Dusseldorf, and was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"The practical implication of this work is that the PO (palm oil) challenge used in this study most likely resembles the effects of ingestion of a meal rich in saturated fat, e.g. an eight-slice pepperoni pizza ... or a meal consisting of a 110g cheeseburger and a large portion of french fries," Prof Roden said.

"One such meal would probably be sufficient to induce transient insulin resistance and impair hepatic (liver) metabolism.

"We presume that lean, healthy individuals are able to compensate adequately for excessive intake of saturated fatty acids, however, sustained and repeated exposure to such nutrients will ultimately lead to chronic insulin resistance, and NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease)."

Palm oil was found to reduce insulin sensitivity by 25 per cent in the whole body, 15 per cent in the liver and 34 per cent in fat tissue.

Triglyceride levels in the liver were increased by 35 per cent and the mechanism that generates glucose sugar from non-carbohydrate foods became 70 per cent more active.

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