What Happens To Your Body When You Eat French Fries Every Day

French fries might as well be America's national food. According to the USDA, more than a third of the potatoes grown in the U.S. are used to make frozen french fries, and the average American consumes almost 35 pounds of fries each year (via the NOAA). It's hard to blame them; french fries are delicious. Crispy, hot, and salty, they satisfy so many cravings that most people find it hard to deny them. 

There's nothing wrong with indulging every once in a while, but eating them too often can lead to negative consequences. Eating french fries every day is extremely risky. The simple carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, and sodium in french fries wreak havoc on all the body's systems, including the skin, the heart, and the digestive system. Indulging in the fried snack daily can significantly increase your chances of developing life-threatening chronic conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, all of which increase your risk of dying early. Who would have thought the humble fry could be so dangerous?

You'll gain weight

One medium serving of french fries from a national fast food chain has 427 calories (via MyFoodData). The average person only needs around 2,000 calories per day to maintain their weight, and that single serving would make up almost one-fourth of the day's total. Considering french fries are just a side dish, and you'd probably be having a burger or another high-calorie item alongside your fries, you could potentially fulfill 75% of your day's calorie needs (or more) from just one meal. Exceeding your body's calorie needs on a regular basis is a major cause of weight gain and obesity. The energy you consume that your body doesn't have an immediate need for gets stored as fat. The more unnecessary energy you consume, the more fat you gain. 

The main reason french fries are so caloric is because of their fat content. Each gram of fat provides 9 calories, which is more than protein or carbohydrates, which only have 4 calories per gram. That means that for the same weight of food, you're getting more than double the amount of calories. That medium serving has 20 grams of fat, which means that 180 calories come from fat. Contrary to common conception, fat doesn't make you fat. But eating a lot of high-calorie fatty foods makes it easier to eat more calories than you need. Doing that every day is a recipe for an expanding waistline.

Your blood sugar will be unstable

Most of the remaining calories in that side of fries come from carbohydrates. Carbs are much maligned; however, not all carbs are bad. The ones in french fries are, though. 

Processed white potatoes are a source of simple carbohydrates that the body quickly digests, rapidly releasing glucose, a form of energy, into the bloodstream. The glycemic index measures the rate at which carbohydrates affect your blood sugar. On a scale from 1 (least effect) to 100 (greatest effect), french fries score a 75, which makes them a high-glycemic food (via Glycemic Index Guide).

The problem with high-glycemic foods is that they send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster. This can lead to significant rises and rapid falls that can make it difficult to maintain a stable energy level. High-glycemic foods may offer a surge of energy right after consumption, but your blood sugar will decline quickly, leaving you feeling fatigued and lethargic. Blood sugar fluctuations can have a range of other negative effects, including food cravings, overeating, and weight gain. Regularly eating a lot of high-glycemic foods can cause insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Your blood pressure will skyrocket

French fries wouldn't be nearly as delicious without several shakes of salt, but that's one of the reasons they're so unhealthy. Salt contains sodium, an electrolyte mineral that your body needs in small amounts to function properly. However, when consumed in excess, it can cause problems. Too much sodium in the bloodstream causes fluid to be pulled into the blood vessels, which increases the volume inside the vessels. This increases blood pressure. Having high blood pressure significantly raises the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer. At best, excess sodium causes water retention that can cause bloating, puffiness, and weight gain.

In order to avoid these health consequences, the American Heart Association says adults should limit daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams. One medium serving of fast food french fries has 311 milligrams of sodium. On its own, that's not a crazy amount — about 20% of the daily recommended limit. However, it's highly likely that those fries are accompanying other high-sodium foods. And that's just one meal. Keep in mind that if you're eating a large serving daily, that contains over 400 milligrams. 

Sodium adds up more quickly than you might think, especially if you eat a lot of processed foods like french fries. The AHA reports that the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, which is more than double the recommended limit. 

Your cholesterol levels will rise

Vegetable oil is typically used to fry french fries. That doesn't sound so bad; after all, it comes from vegetables. However, many restaurants use hydrogenated vegetables oils, which are vegetable oils that have had hydrogen added to make them more shelf-stable. Hydrogenated oils are a source of trans fat, a dangerous type of fat that raises levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and lowers levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL). LDL is the "bad" cholesterol that builds up in the arteries and causes blockages. HDL is a type of "good" cholesterol that helps remove bad cholesterol from the arteries and lowers your risk of adverse effects. Eating trans fats raises your risk of heart disease and stroke, and can also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. Trans fats are so bad for you that the FDA has declared them unsafe for human consumption.

French fries may also be fried in animal fats such as lard. Animal fats may have traces of naturally occurring trans fats, but not enough to cause problems. However, animal fats are high in saturated fat. Saturated fat isn't as bad for you as trans fats, but it's still not good for you. Too much saturated fat from daily french fry consumption can raise your bad cholesterol and increase your risk of developing heart disease. 

You'll have digestive problems

If you eat a lot of fatty foods like french fries on a daily basis, you may notice your stomach gets upset. Fat is difficult for the body to digest, and eating a lot of it at once can cause digestive issues like gas and bloating. A fatty diet can also cause a build up of fats in the colon and small intestine, leading to an overproduction of fluid in the colon that can cause diarrhea. 

But the side effects of eating a lot of fat aren't just short-term. According to research, a high-fat diet can cause changes in the microbiome, the collection of good and bad bacteria that live in the gut (per the BMJ). An imbalance in these bacteria can lead to a condition called leaky gut, in which the intestinal lining becomes more permeable. This may cause toxins, partially digested food, and other substances to leak out into the bloodstream. A damaged intestinal lining has been linked with several conditions affecting the gastrointestinal system, including Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Your brain won't work well

Your brain uses 20% of the calories you eat, even though it makes up only 2% of your body weight. Eating a healthy diet is crucial for brain health. Nutritious foods give your brain the fuel it needs to be alert and productive. Conversely, when you eat a poor diet rich in processed foods like french fries, your brain may be running on empty. 

French fries are a high-glycemic food, which means they are more likely to cause sharp rises and falls in blood sugar. You may initially feel more energetic and alert as the simple carbs flood your bloodstream, but that is short lived. Your blood sugar will soon drop, leaving you feeling tired and foggy-headed. 

Fat can also cause brain fog and cognitive problems. In fact, research has shown that people who eat a diet high in fat perform worse in cognitive tests than those who don't (via the National Institutes of Health). Furthermore, people with a diet high in saturated and trans fats have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Your bones may weaken

You probably already know that a poor diet low in bone-building nutrients like calcium is a common cause of weak and fragile bones. A lesser-known cause is a diet high in sodium. Sodium helps regulate the amount of calcium lost in the urine. A high intake of sodium can cause excess urinary excretion of calcium. Over time, this can lead to reduced bone mass density and weaker bones. Calcium losses can also contribute to kidney stones, osteoporosis, and muscle mass loss, as well as high blood pressure and stroke. 

The suggested daily limit for sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams per day. That's about the amount in 1 teaspoon of salt. If you're liberally sprinkling your daily fries with salt and consuming sodium from other foods during the day, it's very easy to exceed the recommended limit. And in fact, the American Heart Association suggests that an even lower daily intake of no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium could significantly reduce the risk of osteoporosis, as well as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, and cancer.  

Your skin won't look its best

Maybe you've heard that eating fatty, oily foods causes oily skin and acne. According to Yale Scientific, that's a myth. Oil from food doesn't directly show up on your skin. However, french fries can indirectly cause skin problems in a few ways. 

As a high-glycemic food, fries cause blood sugar fluctuations that increase inflammation in your body and cause your skin to produce more sebum. Both of these have the potential to cause acne flare-ups. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, some research shows that people who eat a low-glycemic diet have fewer breakouts. Inflammation can also contribute to the development of other skin problems like psoriasis and eczema, per a review in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences

Fried foods are also high in omega-6 fatty acids. You need some of these fats in your diet, but too much can be harmful, especially if your intake of omega-3 fatty acids is low. This imbalance can contribute to inflammation, which can affect every organ in your body, including your skin. The American diet, which includes a lot of fried and processed foods, often provides an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio as high as 30 to 1. But according to Riverview Health, the ideal ratio is 4 to 1. If you eat french fries every day, it will be very hard for you to achieve this balance.

You might get sick more often

There's no doubt that a healthy diet is linked to a strong immune system. Getting adequate amounts of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants helps your body mount essential immune responses. On the contrary, a diet of processed and fried foods can tear down the body's immune system. High levels of omega-6 fatty acids in processed foods cause systemic inflammation that can weaken the immune response, potentially leading to increased risk of immune dysfunction and disease. Deep frying and other high-temperature cooking methods produce molecular compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). According to a review in Journal of Immunotoxicology, AGEs may promote inflammation and cellular dysfunction and negatively affect the gut microbiome, the collection of good and bad bacteria in the gut that affects immune health. 

Salt can also affect the immune system. According to a review in Cell Proliferation, high salt intake can affect the functioning of immune cells. It can also raise tissue sodium levels, which has an effect on the body's immune response. This can influence the development of disease pathology in hypertension, multiple sclerosis, infections, and cancer.

You'll have less energy

Processed foods high in fat and sodium are energy zappers. You already know that high-glycemic foods like french fries wreak havoc on your blood sugar. After the initial high, your blood sugar plummets, leaving you feeling fatigued. 

Foods high in fat can also affect your energy levels, making you feel more fatigued after eating. A study in Physiology & Behavior found that a high-fat meal made participants feel significantly more fatigued after eating compared to a high-carbohydrate meal. And the effects were greatest three hours after the meal. Your daily french fries at lunch may be the reason you need to take a mid-afternoon nap on your desk every day. 

Salty foods can also drain your energy by preventing you from getting a good night's sleep. Dr. Sandra Darling, DO, MPH, told the Cleveland Clinic that eating too much sodium later in the day can cause your blood pressure to rise and your body to hold onto fluid, both of which can lead to more fitful sleep and feeling tired in the morning. Getting enough good-quality sleep is key to having steady levels of energy throughout the day. If you're eating french fries for dinner every night, you might not be getting the restful Zzzzzs you need.

You might feel anxious and depressed

French fries may be a comfort food when you're feeling down, but research shows that they could actually make you feel worse. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that people who ate higher amounts of fried foods, especially fried potatoes, had a 7% greater risk of anxiety and a 12% greater risk of depression. Researchers believe this is due to exposure to acrylamide, a chemical formed when foods are fried. Preliminary animal studies showed that zebrafish exhibited anxiety and depression symptoms when they were repeatedly exposed to acrylamide.

In addition, high-glycemic foods have also been linked with mood disorders due to their impact on blood sugar, per the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The highs and lows in blood sugar have been associated with mood changes and nervousness. This is especially true for people who already have a mental health disorder. 

Systemic inflammation has also been linked to poor mental health. Eating a lot of fried foods can raise levels of inflammation throughout the body and potentially cause depression and anxiety, according to a review in BMC Medicine