On May 13, in an effort to encourage New York City residents to get the COVID-19 vaccines, Mayo Bill DeBlasio announced that Shake Shack will give free food to vaccinated New Yorkers.
I couldn't help, but shake my head at this absolutely silly attempt. Whether you believe the COVID-19 vaccines are effective or not, I think we can all agree that giving away free fast food is one of the worst incentives health-wise.
Boost Your Immune System... by Eating Food that Weakens It?
Fast food is inflammatory. Inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors including getting a cut, contracting a pathogen, or being exposed to an irritant. Consuming fast food falls under the third category as it contains a bunch of chemicals like trans fats (deep fried foods), refined carbs (buns), and refined oils (vegetable oil) that can caused a chemical imbalance in your body.
Refined oils such as vegetable oil have a very high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. According to Ilich et al. (2014), intake of this type of oil will lead to low-grade chronic inflammation (LGCI). Their conclusion states the following:
We present the evidence that overconsumption of n-6 PUFA coupled with under-consumption of n-3 PUFA results in LGCI and, along with the increased presence of reactive oxygen species, leads to a shift in mesenchymal stem cells (precursors for both osteoblasts and adipocytes) lineage commitment toward increased adipogenesis and suppressed osteoblastogenesis.
Reactive oxygen species are a fancy term for oxidants or free radicals. Free radicals are very reactive and will attack the cell membranes, causing cell death.
"Increased adipogenesis" means an accelerated formation of fat cells which can lead to obesity and "suppressed osteobastogenesis" means less bone formation. The latter can be potentially dangerous to women when they get older due to the risk of osteoporosis.
Osteoblasts are cells that form new bone tissue. Not to be confused with osteoclasts, which does bone resorption.
In addition, according to Ricordi et al. (2015), inflammatory diets can alter hormonal signalling cascades and modulation of the innate immune system. Chronic inflammation can lead to several long-term problems including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, autoimmunity disorders, and aging.
When you deep fry something, you are hydrogenating the fatty acids. Oils are unsaturated fats. When you look at the molecular structure of an unsaturated fat, the double bond is in a cis configuration. That means the carbon chains are on the same side of the double bond. This causes the molecule to bend, so the fatty molecules aren't that good at packing together like LEGOs.
When you hydrogenate something, you are adding more hydrogens to the fatty acid chain. If the reaction goes smoothly, then the entire chain will contain only single bonds, i.e. it becomes a saturated fatty acid. However, if it doesn't, then that's where we run into trans fats. The two chains will end up being on opposite sides of the C=C bond.
Because the trans configuration makes the molecule more linear, that means it's much easier for the fatty acids to pack together like LEGOs. This will increase your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which will build up in your arteries. This will cause your arteries to become stiffer and narrower, making it more difficult for your circulatory system to pump blood. In the worst case scenario, you will suffer a heart attack or a stroke.
Buildup of LDL in the artery will slow down blood flow.
Not only that, but trans fats will also reduce your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. HDL is the "good" cholesterol in that it picks up excess cholesterol and takes it to the liver.
Ultimately, Bill DeBlasio is doing a great disservice with the Shake Shack incentive. Giving out highly inflammatory free food to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine is paradoxical. And one last interesting tidbit. On March 8, the CDC performed a study that looked at the body profiles of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The results revealed that 78% of those patients were overweight or obese.