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Americans flock to fast food like bees to honey. From drive-thrus to supermarkets, fast food is everywhere.

As if pink slime and obesity weren’t enough, here are 10 more shocking ways fast food wreaks havoc on our health, animals, and the environment:

What are the effects of fast food on our health?

1. Depression

Studies show that piggin’ out on junk food is directly linked to depression, even in small quantities. Affecting an estimated 121 million people worldwide, results reveal that consumers of fast food are 51 percent more likely to develop depression or some form of mental illness.

2. Premature Aging

Forget botox and ditch the fast food instead. The sugars, trans fats, and starches found in fast food cause insulin levels to spike, triggering an inflammatory response in the body. The end product? Glycation. This speeds the aging process and destroys the body’s own natural age fighting antioxidants making you more prone to skin damage and premature aging.

3. Aspirin Dependency

Tyramine, a chemical found in food colorants, dyes, and nitrates (nitrates are common in hot dogs and other processed meats) is a known headache inducer. Experts believe that Tyramine increases blood flow to the brain which in turn causes vascular changes that result in headaches, leaving you reaching for the aspirin.

…on animals?

4. Factory Farming

Most, if not all, meat, eggs, and dairy products used in fast food is produced at factory farms. In factory farms, animals are forced to endure inherently cruel and inhumane conditions that deprive them of all their basic instincts.

5. Hormones

In efforts to make the fast food industry more profitable, animals are fed hormones that increase growth, milk, and egg production which can lead to painful inflammation of the udder known as mastitis, as well as crippling and debilitating conditions for poultry.

6. Assembly Lines

In the fast food industry, profit margins are slim and volume is everything, meaning workers are pressured to kill more animals in less time. Most facilities operate 24 hours a day seven days a week, slaughtering and processing hundreds of thousands of animals every hour.

…on the environment?

7. Packaging

Fast food places use a heck of a lot of packaging. From the wrappers and straws to the boxes and bags, fast food packaging counts for an estimated 40 percent of all litter (including drinks, chips, candy, and other snacks) with Styrofoam being the most common food waste. What’s more, Styrofoam takes an unbelievable 900 years to breakdown in landfill!

8. Greenhouse Gases

You probably wouldn’t think of eating a Big Mac as contributing to your carbon footprint but the intensive resources required to make just a standard cheeseburger, from growing the wheat to make the buns to feeding the cattle, and eventually their slaughter, and even the energy required to pickle the cucumbers, the resulting consumption is phenomenal converting to CO2 emissions of somewhere between 1 – 3.5 kg (and that’s not taking into account the methane produced by the cow itself).

9. Transportation

It’s not just burgers and chips that play a role in the effects that fast food have on the environment. Ready meals and other prepared food is equally to blame for damaging our precious planet. Distributing trucks add to the Pollution, emissions, and congestion, all of which contribute to climate change. Reports suggest that ordering online and having groceries delivered to your door can actually cut carbon costs, but an even better idea is to buy locally and always car share or walk when possible.

10. Water Contamination

Thanks to all the pathogens, hormones, drugs, and fertilizers that are used to produce fast food, seeping into our water supplies, water quality has suffered dramatically. Outbreaks of waterborne illness including E. Coli, marine life dead zones, and numerous other hazards can all be contributed to fast food.

In sum, as you can see, fast food is definitely far from the best choice for you, animals or the planet. So instead, opt for a home-prepared meal of locally-grown foods, for maximum resource reduction and the best health benefits, or, if you fancy an eat-out, choose more conscious eateries through a quick browse on Yelp, Happy Cow, or a humane eating app for suggestions prior to stepping out the door.

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Image Source: SteFou!/Flickr