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      The high cost of a poor diet: 20 Consequences of eating an unhealthful diet
      08/25/2020 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
      The high cost of a poor diet: 20 Consequences of eating an unhealthful diet

      Bad diets are more than just indulging in midnights snacks or skipping meals. Unhealthful eating is responsible for several health problems that plague people around the globe.

      Suboptimal diets are?a major risk factor for nutritional deficiencies?that lead to?chronic diseases. Besides declining health,?these also account for billions of dollars in medical?spending annually?in the U.S. alone.

      Consequences?of a poor diet

      Still don’t think bad diets are that big of a deal? Take a look at the short- and long-term effects of eating an unhealthful diet, according to nutritionists:

      Nutritional deficiencies

      Neglecting to eat nutrient-rich foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies. In general, being nutrient-deficient makes our bodies weaker compared to those who get adequate amounts of essential nutrients. On top of that, nutritional deficiencies are also associated with a wide range of chronic conditions.

      A deficiency in?iron, for instance, can lead to anemia. This condition means the blood lacks enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissues, resulting in frequent bouts of fatigue and lightheadedness.?Inadequate amounts of vitamin B3, on the other hand, can lead to pellagra, a disease that causes inflamed skin and diarrhea.

      In some cases, nutritional deficiencies have also been shown to lead to much more serious consequences, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or total blindness. In 2019, for instance, American researchers found an association between an unhealthful diet and AMD.

      Eating disorders

      More often than not, bad diets go hand in hand with poor eating habits, where one might be a consequence of the other. Poor eating habits like skipping meals,?overeating?and snacking in between meals, among others, can snowball into an eating disorder in the long run.

      Binge-eating, for instance, or the practice of eating too much food in one sitting can trigger feelings of shame, embarrassment and regret. This can then trigger a desire to purge.?If left unchecked, binge-eating can lead to eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa.

      Poor immune health

      Without adequate nutrition, our bodies need to work double-time to respond to bacterial and viral infections. In some cases, it might even fail to protect us from those infections due to a lack of immune-boosting nutrients, such as vitamins A, C and E.

      Heightened risk of breast cancer

      Julie Upton, a California-based sports dietitian, explains that most of the chronic diseases that afflict adults in the U.S., including breast cancer, are the result of poor diet coupled with insufficient exercise.

      Those who drink alcohol too often, in particular, face the greatest risk of breast cancer and most other cancers, for that matter.

      Heightened risk of heart disease

      People who often eat fried foods, processed foods and sugar-rich foods as part of their regular diets should expect a greater risk of heart disease.

      Studies show that the sugars and fats from these foods can lead to the buildup of plaque along the arteries, which then heighten the risk of a heart attack or stroke.


      Sodas, candies and pastries might raise the risk of diabetes higher than other foods. But eating too much food, in general, can also lead to a greater risk of diabetes. This is because all foods are transformed into sugar.

      Therefore, binge-eating or forgoing portion sizes, both of which are bad eating habits, will raise diabetes risk regardless of the foods being consumed.


      Nutritional deficiencies can also result in?osteoporosis, a health condition that weakens bones and makes them susceptible to fractures.

      In particular, insufficient calcium and vitamin D intake can lead to brittle bones. Drinking too much alcohol can also kill our bone-making cells.


      In the short term, unhealthful eating can heighten our risk of becoming overweight or obese. It is important for our bodies to have the right balance of nutrients to keep our metabolism in tip-top shape.

      Good metabolism?allows our bodies to burn the food that we eat and convert it into fuel. Poor metabolism as a result of bad diets and eating habits can affect this process and cause us to store more weight than we burn off.

      Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

      Burning abdominal discomfort, chest pain and bloating after eating are some tell-tale signs of acid reflux. Experiencing these from time to time isn’t unusual, but getting them too often might be a sign of a more serious problem like GERD.

      Diet has a major role in controlling the occurrence of acid reflux or GERD flare-ups. Eating fried foods, chocolate, caffeine and chili peppers can stimulate the stomach to make more acid, further irritating the intestine.

      Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

      One of the most common reasons someone might develop NAFLD is poor nutrition. Eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates can trigger?inflammation in the liver and cause it to store more fat than it burns.

      Poor gut health resulting from unhealthful eating can also contribute to the development of NAFLD in some people.


      The state of our mental health also relies on the foods we put in our bodies. Foods lacking in brain-boosting nutrients like omega-3s and magnesium can trigger mood swings and make us more susceptible to depressive moods and gloominess.

      Chronic constipation

      Constipation can make for quite an uncomfortable experience, but it’s often no cause for concern. However, if it keeps recurring, that might be a sign to start eating more fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and pulses as part of a balanced diet.

      Food and nutrition consultant Rachel Begun also recommends eating high-water foods to ward off chronic constipation. Examples of such foods include cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, watermelon, grapefruit, cantaloupe and oranges.

      Poor dental health

      Potato chips, soda, sports drinks, candies and pastries can wreak havoc on the teeth and gums. Sugars from these foods combine with saliva and bacteria present in the mouth, leading to plaque.

      If left unchecked, plaque can erode tooth enamel and heighten the risk of getting cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis, among other dental problems.

      Poor wound healing

      Insufficient intake of protein, whether from meat or plant-based foods, can impair our cells’ natural healing abilities. A slow-healing wound is more susceptible to infection and might require medical treatment if it takes too long to heal on its own.


      Eating too much red meat and drinking alcohol can trigger an acute gout attack. Gout is a complex form of arthritis that tends to affect the joint at the base of the big toe.?It can affect men and women of all ages, but it tends to be more common among people who are overweight.

      Peptic ulcers

      Drinking too much alcohol and caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea can stimulate the stomach to produce more acid.?This excess acid can then burn holes through the inner surface of the stomach or small intestine, creating painful open sores, called peptic ulcers, that can bleed.

      Dark, pungent urine

      Dark and foul-smelling urine is often a sign of dehydration, whether due to insufficient water intake or excess intake of drinks like sodas, coffee, alcohol and sports drinks.

      This shouldn’t be a cause for concern, but it can be an indicator that the liver is unable to flush out toxins and waste products. To avoid serious complications, drink more water and cut back on sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

      Hair loss

      Hair loss can also be attributed to a poor diet. Besides stress and genetic risk factors, some foods can also shrink hair follicles or contribute to hair loss, such as sweets and fried foods.

      However, excess intake of certain nutrients can also cause brittle hair and hair loss. These include selenium, a trace mineral found in seafood, and vitamin A,?a micronutrient found in orange fruits and vegetables.

      Brittle nails

      Dull, brittle nails are the result of not eating enough protein-rich foods like lean meat, fish, nuts and legumes.?Load up on these foods to strengthen nails and keep them from breaking.


      Acne isn’t exclusive to teenagers. Research shows that it can follow us well into adulthood if we eat too much cow’s milk, junk foods and processed foods.

      The effects of diet and eating habits can be more influential than we think. Now that we know the short- and long-term effects of unhealthful eating, it’s time to swap those poor eating habits over for better ones.





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