Diet

What's really inside your breakfast sandwich

What’s wrong with picking up a breakfast sandwich at a fast food chain on your way to work in the morning? More than you might think. According to a recent release from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, that egg, cheese and sausage concoction can have immediate effects on blood vessels.

Breakfast sandwich on a croissant

Masterfile

What’s wrong with picking up a breakfast sandwich at a fast food chain on your way to work in the morning? More than you might think. According to a joint release from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, that egg, cheese and sausage concoction can have immediate effects on blood vessels.

It’s long been believed that a high-fat diet is a risk factor for atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of the arteries due to fat buildup. But how quickly can the effects of a high-fat meal make themselves known?

To see if a high-fat meal results in an immediate response, researchers in Calgary asked 20 healthy people to start their day by eating two high-calorie, high-fat breakfast sandwiches from a fast food chain.

Here’s what the researchers found: people who ate these meals experienced a marked decrease (15-20 percent) in blood flow capacity. In effect, their blood vessels weren’t as efficient two hours later. The effects were temporary, but the results indicate that consuming even one high-fat meal has an immediate effect on an important system of the body.

And if that isn’t enough to put you off your next trip to a drive-thru, the calorie and fat count of the sandwiches might: “Two breakfast sandwiches had 860 calories, 50 gm fat and 1500 mg sodium,” said Dr. Todd Anderson, a researcher for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

For Anderson, the ingredients are the biggest problem with the sandwiches.

“The worst offenders here will be too much butter, high fat and salt cheese and meat. A single egg is not a huge offender,” he said.

While Anderson doesn’t see the long-term harm of the occasional indulgence, he did warn that a regular diet comprised of such items can lead to a build up of fat in the walls of the arteries. In extreme cases, this narrowing of the arteries due to fat buildup can lead to heart attack.

For some heart-healthy breakfast alternatives, here are three options from Heart and Stroke Foundation registered dietitian Carol Dombrow:

1. Yogurt granola parfait

2. Apple crisp omelette

3. Breakfast burritos

What’s your go-to breakfast?