Do you and your child love eating pizzas and burgers? You may have to limit the consumption of these foods.
Scientists at University of Cork in Ireland have reportedly concluded that high-fat and low-fibre Western diet is unhealthy and increases the risk of listeriosis.
For the uninitiated, listeriosis is a life-threatening infection caused by the germ listeria monocytogenes, and is risky for people with a weak immune system. And a Western diet, which is typically full of red meat, processed or fried high-fat food, and refined grains and sugar, can further affect the gut bacteria and weaken the immune system.
Some symptoms of the infection are high fever, intense headaches, body aches and stiffness, as well as gastrointestinal symptoms like pain, nausea and diarrhoea.
Listeriosis in India
“This form of diet, which is canned, processed or frozen food, can not only lead to lifestyle diseases like hypertension, obesity and diabetes, but nowadays, its impact on infectious diseases are also being researched. Listeriosis was initially associated with animals only. Awareness about the disease only increased after the 1960s. Initially, the disease was more common in the West but in the past two decades, more and more cases of listeriosis have been reported in India also. Not just processed or canned food; unwashed vegetables can also cause the disease,” Dr Asmita Mahajan, consultant neonatologist and paediatrician, SL Raheja Hospital, told Express Parenting.
How Western diet can affect pregnancy
Listeriosis primarily affects pregnant women and newborns. “Pregnant women are at risk of a weakened immune system. When we eat these kinds of foods, the healthy bacteria in our gut becomes less, which leads to infections like listeria. If it is diagnosed in early pregnancy, there is more chance of miscarriage. And if it happens in late pregnancy, even if the symptoms in the mother are mild, the infection can spread to the newborn,” Dr Mahajan explained.
In fact, WHO (World Health Organisation) has announced listeria to be the second-most lethal food bacteria, added Dr Mahajan. “The bacteria can survive even at one degree Celsius and that means it can be found in frozen food, which if not heated up to boiling temperature, might retain the risk of causing infection,” she said.
Other impacts of Western diet
The harmful impact of Western diet on our health has been investigated in earlier studies too. According to a study by University of Alabama at Birmingham, Total Western Diet (TWD) can lead to obesity. Extra weight in the body can put stress on the spine, which leads to back pain and other chronic pain syndromes.
Again, high-fat, high-sugar diet consumed by pregnant women can not only lead to obesity but also cause genetic abnormalities passed through the female bloodline to at least three subsequent generations, increasing the risk of obesity-related conditions, according to another study conducted by researchers at Washington University.
Another study published in the journal JAMA Oncology, reported that a pro-inflammatory diet that is heavy in processed food items and refined grains can also increase the risk of colorectal cancer in men and women.
Should Western diet be avoided completely?
“It’s too idealistic a suggestion, I believe. In today’s world, many people cannot avoid such a diet completely. For a healthy, active child, however, eating out should be restricted to maximum once a week. That’s what I would tell any parent,” Dr Mahajan recommended.