People could be putting themselves at risk of making an expatriate health insurance claim if they eat a "cafeteria diet", a study presented to the Canadian Stroke Conference has said.
This eating pattern, which involves a high intake of calories, sodium and sugar, was given to rats and found to induce symptoms of metabolic syndrome in just two months.
Metabolic syndrome involves elevated blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as obesity and high blood pressure, but the rats that ate a cafeteria diet were found to have this disease when they were at an age roughly equivalent to a human being between 16 and 22 years old.
As a result, lead researcher and scientific director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation for Stroke Recovery Dr Dale Corbett predicted that international healthcare facilities will increasingly begin to see men and women suffering from dementia and stroke when they are in their 30s and 40s.
"Young people will have major, major problems much earlier in life," the scientist forecast.
The animals participating in the study had a daily selection of sausages, cupcakes, cookies and other popular junk food items, as well as nutritional food pellets.
They were also given a 30 per cent sucrose solution similar to soft drinks and clean water to drink and as is seen in humans, the rats also greatly preferred to consume treats and junk food.
Dr Corbett warned that it is not yet known whether or not metabolic syndrome is reversible, claiming that if it is found to be permanent, mankind is facing a "ticking timebomb of health problems".
"It is important to remember that for many people the consequences would be even worse, since a lot of people with stroke also have pre-existing health problems," he added.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, risk factors for metabolic syndrome also include a lack of exercise, hormone changes, a genetic predisposition to the condition and ageing.
Furthermore, as well as stroke and heart disease, people with the condition are also at risk of developing kidney disease, type two diabetes and poor blood supply to the legs.