It has been proved, and we all know that processed foods are incredibly bad for our health. Chips, frozen pizza, and fizzy drinks are abundant of salt, sugar and fat, but now researchers want to understand if there is anything else about these foods that might put our health to risk.
For some time now, the consumption of cheap, packaged foods has been connected to increased obesity rates all over the world. However, advice alone to limit these types of foods seem to not do much, considering how easy it is to prepare them, and the increasing range of products that are encapsulated into the category.
What does “processed food” mean?
Either being cured, frozen, milled or pasteurized, almost all foods are suffering some sort of processing. To more precisely identify the processed foods undergoing more severe processing procedures, scientists created a system that gathers foods into four categories. The system is not that perfect, but it states that highly processed foods are mainly made of industrialized ingredients and additives, with little to no trace of whole foods.
Sodas, packaged cookies, instant noodles, and chicken nuggets are a few examples of highly processed fares. Also, the category includes products that can appear wholesome, such as breakfast cereals, energy bars, and some types of yogurts.
The problem with processed foods
Standard packaged fares can be found everywhere, including at checkout lines, vending machines, gas stations. A small clinical trial might shed light on the reason why processed foods are prone to increasing obesity rates.
Scientists from the National Institutes of Health discovered people consumed an average of 500 extra calories per day when intake mostly processed fares, in comparison to when the same people were fed minimally processed foods. This happened even though researchers attempted to equal the meals for nutrients such as fiber, sugar, and fat.
The 20 volunteers could eat as much or as little as they wanted, and were interned into a clinic so their health and conduct could be tracked. However, that’s not all the terrible news.
In other research, scientists in France found that people who consumed more processed foods were more prone to develop heart diseases. A similar study in Spain discovered that eating more processed foods is tied to a higher risk of death in general.
Aside from the fact they taste good, there might be other causes of why it is so hard to stop the consumption of processed foods such as ice cream and cheese puffs.
People in the clinical testing who were fed minimally processed fares generated more of a hormone that reduces appetite, and less of a hormone that induces hunger.
Kevin Hall, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, and the lead author of the study, said that the source of nutrients makes a big difference. Fibers found in whole foods and vegetables, for example, are better at making people feel fuller than the kinds of fiber put into packaged foods, such as yogurt, cookies, and even fizzy drinks.
Then what should you eat?
Even with the results of the most recent studies, the advice to limit the consumption of processed foods perhaps makes sense to most people. Minimally processed foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are more abundant in nutrients, and in some areas more difficult to gorge on as they are not as largely available. However, following that advice can be difficult, more precisely for people with limited time and money.
So, while these studies may give people more reasons to limit or altogether avoid industrialized foods, they also underline the hardship of finding a solution for everyone.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.