Experts within the mineral bioavailability team at the Zaidin Experimental Station in Granada have linked fast food rich in Maillard reaction products to a decrease protein digestibility.
The Maillard reaction occurs with the thermal processing of food when it is cooked, which makes food more appetizing. It consists of a series of interactions between amino acids and proteins with sugars or oxidized lipids, which enhance the colour, flavour and texture of food like bread crust, roast meat, coffee aroma, and chocolate.
This reaction has positive and negative effects in the body. An example of the former is that it is used in culinary techniques to obtain aroma and flavour for food, and it has antioxidant properties as well.
However, this reaction also negatively affects health, as it makes amino acid liberation from proteins during digestion impossible, which means they cannot be used later. This is what the Spanish study shows.
This research further supports concerns that a fast food culture. which is quickly taking over more traditional patterns of consumption, could have deep health implications.
New trends in consumer consumption are changing the character not only of mealtimes across the EU, but also the health profiles of member states.
The adoption of lifestyles that are increasingly American - fast food, processed food, soft drink and little or no exercise could see Europe entering the front end of the obesity and diabetes epidemics that began in America nearly 20 years ago.
This latest study could well deepen concerns that poor eating habits might have far-reaching implications.
The scientists made two groups of adolescents and supplied them with a different balanced diet for fifteen weeks, both similar in the amount of nutrients and food but cooked with different techniques.
The first group's diet was rich in Maillard reaction products such as hamburgers, bread with crust and cola and cocoa drinks. The other group's diet consisted of products with a minimised reaction such as stewed pures and cooked sausages.
The experiment revealed that the consumption of diets rich in Maillard reaction products decreases protein digestibility. The research therefore suggests that moving away from Mediterranean-based diets towards fast food-based diets could have a great impact on health than previously thought.
In studies conducted in rats, those rodents fed with 3 per cent of Maillard reaction products also suffered a decrease of calcium and magnesium levels in bone. The consequences in the long-term could be certain diseases like osteoporosis.
The team of scientists says that they will have the support of the Andalusian Ministry of Innovation, Science and Enterprise in their next research stage.