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What those tempting treats REALLY do your body


AFTER ONE – ONE-FIVE SECONDS: You taste the crisp’s salty crust almost instantly as it dissolves against the liquid on your tongue, giving a huge ‘hit’ to your system. Your tongue is exceptionally sensitive to salt because, throughout history, salt has been a rare nutrient, making us biologically programmed to crave it.

This craving abates only when levels of salt in the blood are high, which, at the earliest, occurs after half-an-hour — likely to be long after you’ve eaten the whole packet of highly salty crisps. Although each crisp may contain little moisture, its thin coating of oil helps the ‘mouth feel’ factor, stopping the potato tasting chalky in your mouth.

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Crisps: Your blood pressure is raised for days after eating the salty snack

FIVE-20 SECONDS: The snack quickly soaks up moisture in your mouth and is swallowed easily. However, you fail to appreciate how much you are eating.

Worryingly, as you munch, a substance called acrylamide — a chemical produced when starchy foods such as potatoes and bread are cooked at high temperatures that is linked to an increased risk of cancer — leaches out and quickly seeps into your body. Cutting down on foods with acrylamide is probably wise.

TWO-15 MINUTES: The crisps are rapidly mulched in stomach acid. However, because the salt has still not yet been absorbed into your circulation, your body cannot appreciate how much salt you have eaten. So the drive to consume more continues.

15-30 MINUTES: As the greasy mulch begins its journey along the intestine, the salt is finally sucked up into the blood, making you feel thirsty.

After such a sudden influx of salt, the body quickly needs to dilute the concentration to safe levels. Your blood pressure starts to rise because of the salt and the ‘thirst centre’, in a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, compels you to drink more.

While ‘fullness’ hormones such as leptin are released as the food is digested, they have a reduced effect because the salt, combined with the tasty fats, suppresses their power.

So, even if you’ve been wolfing back handfuls, you still want more.

30 MINUTES TO TWO HOURS: Your body becomes temporarily overloaded with fluid as your body tries to dilute the excess sodium. Your blood pressure increases further, forcing the heart to work harder.

The remaining acrylamide is taken up into the body. This toxic substance now spreads throughout all the tissues in the body.

The lack of fibre means the potato starch is quickly broken down into sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream, giving you a mild sugar rush. Diabetics are at risk of having a blood sugar spike.

TWO TO SIX HOURS: Oils are absorbed, most of which are converted into fat cells to be stored around your body.

SIX HOURS TO SEVERAL DAYS: Your blood pressure remains higher than normal for many hours or days while the kidneys work to get rid of excess salt. It can also take days for the body to remove all the acrylamide.

EAT OR AVOID? Eat only occasionally and with restraint. Plain popcorn or breadsticks are a good alternative.


0 SECONDS: Before your first bite, your body is teased into anticipation. As vapours from the chocolate waft up the nose, feelgood endorphins are triggered and serotonin — the ‘happy hormone’ — is increased. Your appetite is stimulated.

AFTER FIVE-15 SECONDS: On first bite, sugar dissolves in your saliva, while the warmth of your mouth melts the fat in the chocolate, causing it to glide over the tongue, triggering your fat-sensing taste buds.

Your mouth is electrified by that fat and sugar. A surge of the feelgood chemical dopamine rushes through the brain as the sensations combine.

You feel calmer, in part thanks to endocannabinoids, which the body produces when you eat chocolate — this is similar to the mood-altering chemicals in cannabis.

Chocolate: Turns to body fat in 30 minutes

Chocolate: Turns to body fat in 30 minutes

ONE-TWO MINUTES: As chocolate passes down the oesophagus, an overabundance of acidic juices fills the stomach to start breaking it down. Heartburn sufferers may get a bout of indigestion about now.

TWO-FIVE MINUTES: The chocolate is processed by the stomach. Blood sugar levels start to soar and energy levels begin to rise.

FIVE-30 MINUTES: Any excess energy is rapidly converted into body fat after just half-an-hour. It’s a process that can take up to eight hours to complete. Caffeine from the cocoa is now absorbed, boosting alertness.

30-90 MINUTES: Caffeine levels peak, helping concentration and wakefulness. However, at this moment, the blood sugar levels plummet, making some feel lethargic and irritable.

90 MINUTES TO TWO HOURS: A second, more plentiful, stimulant called theobromine is fully processed by the body, giving another mild mental boost. However, it increases the rate of urine production, too.

Phenolics — antioxidants believed to protect the heart and reduce cancer risk, and which are most concentrated in very dark chocolate — also enter the body in full flow.

TWO-THREE HOURS: Sugar levels slump to their lowest, making some people feel lethargic.

FIVE-SIX HOURS: And still the fats pour in to your circulation! Most are converted directly into stores around the organs and under the skin.

Unlike other saturated fats in meat and cheese, cocoa butter — the fat from cocoa — doesn’t appear to raise cholesterol and cause a furring up of the arteries in the same way.

However, cheaper vegetable oil is often used instead in chocolate, some of which is bad for the arteries.

SIX PLUS HOURS: The chocolate enters the colon. Undigested remains are feasted upon by gut bacteria. Cocoa does support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Gut microbes also release substances from the cocoa-rich chocolate that reduce blood pressure and stress hormone levels over time.

EAT OR AVOID? Make it dark for the antioxidant benefits.


AFTER TWO-TEN SECONDS: As gin runs over your tongue, the alcohol triggers a burning sensation. However, it’s dampened by the sweetness and tang of the tonic water.

TEN SECONDS TO FIVE MINUTES: The gin starts to irritate the lining of the oesophagus and stomach, potentially worsening heartburn, indigestion or stomach ulcers. You begin to feel the effects as the alcohol rapidly soaks into the bloodstream through the stomach lining.

Gin and tonic: Heartburn in the first ten seconds

Gin and tonic: Heartburn in the first ten seconds

FIVE-15 MINUTES: The liquid starts to travel to the intestines. Sugar hits your bloodstream and alcohol spreads throughout your body and into the brain. Blood alcohol levels continue to rise.

15–25 MINUTES: Sugar levels peak and your liver works hard to break down the alcohol. Alcohol is entering your bloodstream faster than your liver can break it down — which causes the messaging chemicals in the brain to go off-kilter, reducing cognitive skills, making you drowsy and altering your mood.

25–45 MINUTES: Both alcohol and sugar levels peak and you have absorbed most of the drink. You are now at your drunkest — unless you carry on drinking. Your kidneys are stimulated to produce excess urine.

45–90 MINUTES: As the liver breaks down the alcohol, some is converted into energy and fat, with the latter stored around the body. While the intoxicating effects subside, you may feel low, tired or generally unwell.

90 MINUTES–FOUR HOURS: Alcohol gradually leaves the body completely, depending on the strength of the drink — as well as the ability of your body to process alcohol.

DRINK OR AVOID? Men and women are advised not to drink any more than 14 units per week and to have several alcohol-free days a week.


AFTER FIVE-TEN SECONDS: Your taste buds are almost instantly saturated with sugar-sweetened barley malt flavouring, making your breakfast positively irresistible.

The impact of this sweetness is heightened by the salt added to cornflakes, which makes your tongue’s sugar receptors even more sensitive — thus causing the otherwise tasteless flakes of refined corn to seem even sweeter.

Cornflakes: They only stave off hunger for 20 minutes before you're craving more

Cornflakes: They only stave off hunger for 20 minutes before you’re craving more

TEN SECONDS TO TEN MINUTES: Low in fat and with little fibre, corn flakes are extremely easy to digest. The stomach’s gastric acids rapidly break them down as quickly as ten seconds after your first bite.

They’re not as remotely filling as something like porridge. Made from steamed corn kernels, they’re stripped of their nutrient-rich bran layer and then rolled flat.

Almost devoid of nutrients, they’re then given added vitamins and minerals, including tiny particles of powdered iron.

These are bound to help improve nutrition, you might think. Not entirely. Unlike the natural sources of iron in meat and dairy products, the cheap iron added to many cereals can’t be easily absorbed. Most particles simply pass straight through the body.

TEN-40 MINUTES: Your stomach makes light work of the cornflakes, digesting them in as little as ten minutes — especially if you’ve eaten them with skimmed milk, as the more complex molecules in full-fat milk take longer to break down.

Within these few minutes, the stomach starts to empty, sugar from the flakes is soaked up and you receive a quick energy boost.

Simultaneously, the refined corn starch is speedily broken down into sugar. It all happens so fast that you can start to feel hungry again just 20 minutes after eating.

So a mere 40 minutes after the first spoonful, your blood sugar level has already peaked.

40 MINUTES TO TWO HOURS: Blood sugar levels start plummeting. Virtually all of the cornflakes’ energy is absorbed within 120 minutes. Just two hours after your first mouthful, you feel almost as hungry as when you started.

EAT OR AVOID? There are much healthier options. Try a no-added-sugar muesli with fruit and nuts.


AFTER 0-ONE SECONDS: Energy drinks are very high in tart-tasting acid. The high quantities of sugar mask the fact many energy drinks are as acidic as lemon juice. As the drink swirls around the mouth, the acid eats away at tooth enamel.

Energy drinks: Can cause headaches, irritability and constipation lasting up to nine days

Energy drinks: Can cause headaches, irritability and constipation lasting up to nine days

TEN MINUTES: The caffeine (about as much as a cup of instant coffee) gradually enters your bloodstream, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to start to rise. Sugar — in the form of glucose — quickly enters the bloodstream.

15-40 MINUTES: Caffeine levels suffuse into the brain, making you feel more alert. Sugar levels soar.

40-50 MINUTES: All the caffeine has been absorbed and your liver is now working hard to remove the caffeine from your blood-stream. This will take about 12 hours.

ONE HOUR: The caffeine’s energising effects are fading. A sugar crash takes place at the same time. You now start to feel tired, low, lethargic and irritable.

FIVE-SIX HOURS: Caffeine levels drop by 50 per cent — unless you are on the contraceptive pill, in which case, your liver finds it much harder to clear the caffeine and so it lingers for twice as long.

12 HOURS: Caffeine should have cleared your bloodstream by now. However, because of their smaller body mass, caffeine stays in the bodies of children and teenagers for longer and at higher levels, often causing anxiety problems.

12-24 HOURS: You may get headaches, irritability and constipation. This can last up to nine days in some who drink lots of caffeine and then stop suddenly.



AFTER TWO-TEN SECONDS: Cold temperatures will numb the taste buds, so manufacturers add extra sugar to an already sugary product to make it taste sweeter.

Ice cream: 'Hypnotises' you into eating more

Ice cream: ‘Hypnotises’ you into eating more

Even if you don’t realise quite how sweet it is when you first put a spoonful in your mouth, the sugar makes you want to keep eating. As no chewing is needed, the semi-solid ice cream is swallowed quickly, tricking your mind into not acknowledging how much super-sweet ice cream you’ve eaten.

15 MINUTES TO ONE HOUR: As the ice cream leaves the stomach, sugar surges into the body. What isn’t burnt off immediately is stored as fat. The intestines release ‘fullness’ hormones, to tell your brain you are starting to feel full.

You now feel less inclined to carry on eating. However, the chances are that you will already have eaten more than you intended because ice cream slips down so easily.

ONE–THREE HOURS: Fat from the ice cream enters the body more slowly than the sugar. It will also be turned into body fat stored under the skin and around the organs. Higher-fat, cream-based ice creams move through the intestines more slowly and cause the body to produce more ‘fullness’ hormones than low-fat ice creams.

Ironically, you may end up eating more low-fat ice cream — with the risk of consuming extra sugar and calories — than if you just ate a small bowl of full-fat ice cream.

THREE-SIX HOURS: Your body continues to soak up the residual fat moving through the intestines — completing the task in around six hours.

EAT OR AVOID? An occasional treat. Try a smaller portion of high-fat, rather than a large low-fat one.  


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