Coffee and fast-food take their toll

Daniel Vasilchuk

What do a mouth-watering, crispy burger, salty fries and luxurious, aroma-filled coffee have in common? They are all easily found on Sacramento State’s campus and can lead to a host of problems.

VIDEO: “Unhealthy vices”

The addition of an extra Java City in the Hornet Bookstore two years ago, coupled with the recent installment of a new Jamba Juice in the University Union is not exactly helping freshmen or even upperclassmen make healthy food choices. And if you think the smoothies at Jamba Juice are healthy, just know that they are loaded with calories and sugar.

The “freshman 15,” where students supposedly gain 15 pounds in their first year, might just be a popular myth. But it’s a fact that unhealthy eating at fast-food restaurants does eventually catch up with you. Not only will your finances suffer as a result, so will your liver.

An increase in Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT), which is synonymous with a worsening condition of the liver, was discovered by a 2008 Swedish study which centered on 18 participants eating nothing but fast-food for four weeks.

“The fact that 14 out of 18 participants had pathological ALT levels after just one week clearly displays that elevated ALT levels ? can be caused not only by alcohol ingestion, but also by a higher caloric intake,” according to the study. This may very well mean that fast-food consumption is equivalent to drinking hard liquor.

Fast-food, when consumed in moderation, is delicious and quickly available. Otherwise, you may wake up one day in a white hospital environment with a liver condition.

Shauna Schultz, a registered dietician, suggested a healthier alternative to the fast-food found on campus. An alternative could be making something like a cheeseburger at home, but with healthier ingredients.

“Try using extra-lean ground beef or lean ground turkey, add a slice of reduced-fat cheese, lettuce, tomato, a thin spread of low-fat mayo, mustard, and use a whole wheat hamburger bun,” Schultz said.

Not all students can afford to do so. Freshmen, in particular, might not have access to a personal kitchen. So if eating fast-food is inevitable, consuming grilled and low-fat items in small portions is the way to go, Schultz said.

Something else hides beneath the rubble of malnutrition and liver disease: addiction. The stretching lines of coffee junkies at any one of Sac State’s Java City shops say it all. For many of us, a caffeine rush is the only reason our eyes aren’t glued shut during lectures.

Quitting a coffee addiction is hard, but not impossible. The headaches and other withdrawal symptoms that ensue are only slightly irritating. Marya Endriga, professor of psychology, argues that it is because we have developed this physical addiction to caffeine that we continue to consume it.

“People may begin to drink coffee just to avoid withdrawal symptoms instead of drinking it for enjoyment,” Endriga said.

Someone who drinks coffee on a daily basis will also gradually build tolerance caffeine and will find that whatever amount worked last week probably will not work today, Endriga said.

In addition to the development of a physical addiction to caffeine, people may just as well become psychologically addicted to fast-food. Psychological addiction differs from physical in that there are no withdrawal symptoms if someone was to quit eating fast-food and opt for a healthier alternative.

This does not mean a psychological addiction is easier to manage. Fast-food advertisements on billboards or television make it hard to forget the tongue-tingling enjoyment that comes with fast-food.

“I still remember the distinctive taste of a quarter pound with cheese from McDonald’s that I ate for the first time in high school when dating my first real boyfriend,” Endriga said.

Fast-food and coffee are damaging to your health. Make the choice to stay fit and treat your body well. Schultz suggested joining Hornets on the Move, a student club dedicated to improving fitness. So go out there and do something good for yourself. You deserve it.

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