The body under siege: How McDonald’s food wreaks short and long-term havoc


    9th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) McDonald’s may satiate hunger with convenient, tasty meals, but the repercussions for our health are severe. From weight gain to diabetes, cardiovascular damage to cancer risks, a growing body of research reveals the extensive harms of regularly eating McDonald’s menu items. Even occasional indulgence in McDonald’s food negatively impacts our bodies in multiple ways due to the chain’s reliance on ingredients like sodium, sugar and saturated fat. This was spotlighted by a Utah woman who kept an unchanged McDonald’s hamburger and fries for over 20 years, illustrating the abnormal longevity of such artificially preserved food.

    Within an hour of eating a McDonald’s meal, our bodies suffer significant effects. The high calorie and fat content lead to surging blood sugar levels as the carbohydrate-heavy meal is digested. A Big Mac alone delivers 540 calories and 25 grams of fat, accounting for almost half the recommended daily value. As blood sugar spikes, the pancreas secretes excess insulin to remove sugar from the bloodstream, leading to an energy crash which fuels cravings for more fast food.

    McDonald’s food also tends to be loaded with sodium, with a Big Mac containing 75% of the daily recommended amount. Such high sodium intake causes water retention and strains the cardiovascular system. The saturated fats and cholesterol from McDonald’s burgers and nuggets also immediately raise the levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol in our blood, increasing risk of heart disease.

    Additionally, additives like artificial flavours and preservatives trigger inflammation throughout the body within an hour of eating McDonald’s food. Inflammation is the precursor to a host of chronic diseases tied to fast food including heart disease, liver damage and diabetes. Right after a McDonald’s meal, inflammation flares up as the body reacts to foreign chemicals.

    Within 20 minutes of eating at McDonald’s, ingredients like high fructose corn syrup artificially spike insulin levels, rapidly shuttling sugar into our cells. This leads to the infamous “sugar crash” that promotes cravings and overeating. The effect is similar to how bodies react to refined sugar.

    By 40 minutes, high sodium concentrations in McDonald’s food lead to dehydration as the body’s water reserves are drawn to the stomach to aid digestion. Dehydration then causes further hunger pangs even after finishing the meal. Ironically, reaching for another McDonald’s meal only exacerbates the unhealthy cycle.

    After one hour, the initial digestion process has extracted the maximum nutrition possible from the meal. But the lack of fibre and essential micronutrients in McDonald’s food provide little satiation. Our bodies are still nutritionally starved on a cellular level, compelling us to consume more in a futile attempt to satisfy nutritional needs. This is how fast food addiction and weight gain occur.

    While the immediate impacts are alarming enough, regular consumption of McDonald’s meals over the years can utterly devastate our health. One of the most obvious effects is obesity resulting from excessive calorie intake. A McDonald’s meal often far exceeds the calories needed for one sitting, leading to rapid weight gain over time.

    Obesity then opens the door to many other issues, including diabetes as the body becomes less responsive to insulin. Type 2 diabetes prevalence has rapidly increased in line with rising fast food consumption. McDonald’s high meat content and large fry portions also boost the risk for cardiovascular disease, while sky-high sodium is linked to high blood pressure and stroke.

    Furthermore, without sufficient exercise, obesity can impact the respiratory system due to the pressure placed on lungs. Breathing difficulties and diminished lung capacity frequently result among obese populations. McDonald’s high-calorie meals directly contribute toward this danger if consumed regularly.

    The digestive system also suffers from frequent McDonald’s meals. The chain’s food is extremely low in fibre yet laden with sugar and fat, slowing digestion. Constipation and erratic bowel movements commonly occur as a consequence of poor nutrition. Over many years, colon cancer risk also rises due to prolonged exposure to food additives and preservatives.

    Additionally, the vitamin and mineral deficiencies induced by eating McDonald’s instead of more wholesome food can create deficiencies that undermine our neurological health. Key nutrients like B vitamins, iron, selenium and zinc are vital for proper nerve functioning and development. By depriving our brain cells of these nutrients, cognitive decline and mental health issues may manifest after years of frequent fast food meals.

    Kidney function similarly declines with age when chronically exposed to dietary toxins via consumption of McDonald’s beef and fries. The chain’s food also harms liver function over time, as this organ strains to metabolize excessive fats and sodium. McDonald’s food forces our vital organs to work harder, wearing them down more rapidly.

    Besides internal organ damage and disease, surface effects on the body also occur over years of consuming McDonald’s. Persistent acne, dull skin, and hair loss can result as the inflammatory nature of fast food manifests through the integumentary system. The chain’s food damages our outward appearance just as it throttles internal organs.

    Clearly, the toxic toll inflicted by McDonald’s food is immense. But it took a woman’s bizarre experiment to truly demonstrate just how artificially preserved and chemically altered McDonald’s menu items are. In 1996, she purchased a McDonald’s hamburger and fries, then left the meal untouched in her closet for over 20 years.

    Astonishingly, when she finally unearthed the two decade old meal in 2016, the burger and fries looked largely the same as the day they were bought without rot or mold. The fact that McDonald’s food could endure for years with no decomposition illustrates how far from fresh or natural it really is. Food that won’t biodegrade has been heavily chemically treated.

    This enduring McDonald’s meal exemplified why fast food wreaks long-term harm within our bodies. Food is meant to be metabolized and pass through our systems within 48 hours at most. But McDonald’s hamburgers, nuggets and fries evidently remain intact for years, clogging up our stomachs and intestines. This places an abnormal preservative-laden burden on our digestive organs unlike that from organic foods.

    The Utah woman’s promotional stunt for a local radio station unwittingly highlighted the health scourge posed by McDonald’s grub. The perfectly preserved burger and fries from the 1990s offered a warning that should make us reconsider McDonald’s food altogether.

    While an occasional fast food indulgence may seem harmless, the sheer artificiality of McDonald’s products makes moderation difficult. Our bodies simply aren’t designed to handle food engineered to last for years without spoiling. The corporation prioritizes long shelf-life over nutrition. But the consequences are chronic diseases and inflated healthcare costs that society must bear.

    Rather than risk our health for corporate profits, we must reassess the role of fast food in our diets. Home-cooked meals from fresh, local ingredients provide the nutrition our bodies require without health side effects. If we must satiate a fast food craving, at least opting for slightly healthier menu choices reduces impacts. Becoming educated about how McDonald’s food physically harms us is key to changing social norms around convenience food. Any profits McDonald’s loses from reduced patronage sends a strong message too.

    But above all, we cannot forget the Utah woman’s ominous warning embodied by her decades-old McDonald’s meal. Grossly unnatural food that never decays has no place in our stomachs. Purchased in 1996, the uneaten hamburger and fries looked largely unchanged when unveiled in 2021, having never moulded or rotted. While not inherently unsafe, this remarkable durability questions the freshness and nutritional value of ingredients used. If fast food lacks the ability to biodegrade naturally, that suggests high levels of artificial preservatives incompatible with healthy digestion. This famous long-lasting McDonald’s meal spotlights the chain’s reliance on chemicals and sugars for an abnormally long shelf-life. Our bodies are not waste bins for preserving chemical-laden junk. We deserve better than the chronic diseases bred by McDonald’s frankenfood.


    This infographic explains how a Big Mac affects the body within 1 hour of consumption.
    Image credit: Fast Food Menu Price