Junky snacks are as bad as lousy meals

Eat a healthy, balanced meal and it's tempting to "reward" yourself with a junky snack after.

You deserve it, right?

Sorry, but it just doesn't work that way. Junky snacks can hurt you as much as unhealthy meals, with new research showing how treats high in sugar or fat (or both) can lead to extra fat where you want it least.

That's not on your hips or butt so much as around your organs -- especially your liver.

Fat around the liver leads to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a major risk factor for metabolic syndrome, which ultimately leads to diabetes, heart disease and an early death.

The new study finds that men who eat bigger meals see a gain in BMI, just as you'd expect, but not necessarily an increase in this dangerous form of organ fat.

Men who eat the same number of extra calories but get the extras from junk-food snacks, on the other hand, see an increase in both abdominal fat and fat around the liver, as well as a decrease in insulin sensitivity in the liver.

What's especially stunning about the study is not just that junk food caused that boost in dangerous fat and drop in insulin sensitivity.

That's just what I'd expect to see.

No, the real stunner is how quickly that fat formed -- because the study lasted just six weeks.

So if you really want to reward yourself for eating a healthy meal, don't turn to a junky dessert or snacks.

Turn to something healthy instead, such as fresh fruit or vegetables.

Basic advice, yes. But here's a case where getting back to basics is truly what's best for your health and your body.