Health-Nutrition-Super-Processed Food

Title: Fat, Sugar, Salt … You’ve Been Thinking About Food All Wrong
Author: Reynolds, Matt

Key Takeaways:

A Brazilian grocery shopping survey revealed that Brazilians were buying less oil, sugar, and salt than in the past, yet the proportion of Brazilian adults who were overweight or obese more than doubled between 1975 and 2009. Carlos Monteiro noticed this, and it inspired him to eventually propose the NOVA Food Classification System, which categorizes food based on how it is made, (not by what is in it.)

  • Minimally Processed Food
  • Processed Culinary Ingredients
  • Processed food
  • Ultra-Processed Food

Kevin Hall conducted the first randomized control trial comparing Ultra-Processed Food diets and unprocessed diets.

  • 20 Volunteers stayed at a clinical research hospital.
  • Half of the volunteers ate an Ultra-Processed Food diet of tater tots, turkey sausage, Spam, and diet lemonade.
  • The other half ate fruit, veggies, and unprocessed meat.
  • Researchers provided double the recommended portions of food for both diets.
  • The two diets were nutritionally matched, containing roughly the same amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber.
  • On the Whole Food diet, people ate fewer calories and lost weight, despite the meals on offer for both sides of the trial having roughly the same nutrient compositions.
  • On the Ultra-Processed food diet, people ate around 500 extra calories per day and put on about two pounds.

After the results of Hall’s trial were published, scientists suggested that the findings may be because Ultra-Processed Food is more calorie-dense than whole foods, is eaten more quickly than whole foods, and its changes to the gut microbiome might be influencing calorie intake.

Alexandra DiFeliceantonio and Ashley Geardhardt argue that if you measure Ultra-Processed Food against standards set for tobacco products, Ultra-Processed Food should be considered addictive substances.

Given that some plant-based foods like what Impossible makes could be considered Ultra-Processed, the term is not all-encompassing.

Christopher Gardner conducted a trial where people replaced animal meat with Plant-Based meats for eight weeks, and participants lost weight and had low cholesterol concentrations after the Plant-Based phase.

While public policy is slow to react, comparing to Tobacco, for example, once there was science to back it, it started to shift – Carlos Monteiro believes that public health bodies should take action on Ultra-Processed Foods before knowing everything about them.