No one would ever mistake the McDonald’s Big Mac for health food, but a new infographic details just how bad for you it can be.
The graphic, from website Fast Food Menu Price, breaks down exactly what the Big Mac does to your body within an hour of eating it.
It’s not pretty: Among other things, the iconic burger raises your blood sugar, dehydrates you, and makes you feel hungry again just 40 minutes after eating it.
Infographic: Fast Food Menu Price
Here’s what you can expect:
In the first 10 minutes: The Big Mac (and its 540 calories) raises your blood sugar to abnormal levels. Junk food like the Big Mac triggers your brain’s reward system by releasing “feel-good” chemicals, such as the neurotransmitter dopamine. The process works in a similar way to the reaction you’d get after taking a drug like cocaine and raises the likelihood of compulsive eating.
After 20 minutes: The Big Mac’s bun has high levels of high-fructose corn syrup and sodium — both of which are addictive and make your body crave more.
After 30 minutes: The burger’s 970 milligrams of sodium can cause dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration are similar to those of hunger, tricking you into thinking you want more food. Your kidneys have trouble eliminating the salt, and your heart has to work faster to pump blood through your veins. This can cause high blood pressure and can ultimately lead to heart disease and stroke.
After 40 minutes: You start to feel hungry again. When you eat a high calorie meal, your body’s insulin response can bring down your glucose levels, causing you to want to eat more. The bun’s high-fructose corn syrup is quickly absorbed by your GI tract, creating insulin spikes and even bigger hunger pangs.
After 60 minutes: Your body typically takes 24 to 72 hours to digest food, but burgers can take more time because they are greasier. The Big Mac can take more than three days to fully digest.
While the infographic is surprising, registered dietitian nutritionist Beth Warren, author of Living a Real Life With Real Food tells Yahoo Health that it paints a fairly accurate picture. “It’s not one ingredient that is a concern, but a lot of different reasons to take caution when eating a Big Mac,” she says.
Certified dietitian nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, CEO of NewYork Nutrition Group tells Yahoo Health that the immediate reaction to eating a Big Mac varies from person to person, adding that the infographic is accurate but “somewhat exaggerated.”
Among other exaggerations, Moskovitz says, the claim that your blood sugar will climb to “abnormal levels” isn’t 100 percent true. “Everyone’s body has a different blood sugar and insulin response,” she says. “Because there is also a significant amount of fat in a Big Mac, it may slow down the conversion of the carbs into glucose that travel through the blood stream.”
She also points out that a Big Mac’s ability to dehydrate you depends on the individual, along with other factors like daily exercise habits, medical history, and your current state of hydration.
Both experts agree that the Big Mac shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet, but add that it’s OK to have it once in a while. “I usually tell my patients to treat themselves once a week with one choice,” says Warren. “However, because of the Big Mac’s abundant amount of nutritional health concerns, that would equal up to more than one choice of a cheat.”