Liverpool. junk food The dangers of foods have received widespread coverage in recent months – thanks to the publication and promotion of the book Ultra-Processed People by TV presenter and doctor of virology Chris Van Tuelken. Ultra-processed foods, in short, are commercially manufactured food products that contain ingredients that are not commonly available in the home. Some of this processing makes foods more palatable, some extends their shelf life and makes them more affordable – such as wholemeal supermarket bread for example. Scientists have long known that foods that are high in saturated fat, salt, sugar, calories or that are low in whole grains and fiber are linked to health problems like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Contribute to greater risk of. A fair number of ultra-processed foods will have some adverse nutritional characteristics – but not many.
What is new and controversial about ultra-processed food is the idea that food processing itself is deadly. Van Tuelken’s book argues that “the problem lies in over-processing, not in nutritional content”. Considering that some pizzas are responsible for our weight gain, he writes, “The only question is whether it is an ultra-processed food”. Van Tuelken also claims that highly processed food is linked to more deaths than tobacco, and is the number one cause of early death globally. But, in my view, much of it is wrong.
Globally, ultra-processed foods have not been considered the biggest cause of deaths and this has not been revealed in any scientific study. I believe this bold but misleading claim appears to be a misinterpretation of the research that suggests poor diet is a leading cause of death. Most deaths in this and similar studies were caused by poor diet, caused by factors such as not eating enough fruits and vegetables, oily fish or whole grains. Nor is there strong evidence that whether a food is ultra-processed determines how it may affect your health. Several studies have shown that people whose diets contain more ultra-processed foods have worse health than those whose diets contain less ultra-processed foods.
However, research shows that it is some specific types of ultra-processed foods, rather than all ultra-processed foods, that are linked to poor health in studies. This includes categories like sugary drinks and processed meats, which we’ve known for some time that they’re bad for health. Eating other foods classified as ultra-processed does not predict poor health. And they’ve even been shown to lead to better health in some studies. Brown bread and cereals are good examples. Almost all scientific studies used as evidence on the harms of ultra-processed foods are ”observational studies”.
This means that researchers don’t change a person’s diet to see what happens to their health—they observe people’s health based on what they eat. Thus, observational studies can only attempt to take into account all the ways in which people eating a lot of ultra-processed foods differ versus people eating less ultra-processed foods. This is key to ultra-processing, as there may be unexpected factors about a person or their diet that lead to poor health – making it appear that the number of ultra-processed foods in a person’s diet is bad for them. It is causing harm to health, whereas it is not so. A recent study explores this in more detail.
The study looked at whether consumption of ultra-processed food was associated with the development of cancer. This was similar to what has been shown in other studies. But it also looked at whether consumption of ultra-processed food was associated with a health outcome that had no probable cause, sudden death. It turns out that people who eat highly processed foods are more likely to die in car accidents, falls, and other accidents. There is no concrete reason to believe that processed food causes sudden death. Rather, the cause is probably something else that has either not been accurately measured and accounted for or has not been measured at all – a so-called ”confounding factor”.
People from poorer backgrounds are more likely to suffer sudden death – as are people who have poor mental health. We also know that people from poorer backgrounds or who have poor mental health often eat more ultra-processed foods. Studies can measure a person’s income, but the many ways that living in poverty or having poor mental health harms physical health are very difficult to measure with accuracy. They may therefore be examples of confounding factors that lead ultra-processed food intake to predict worsening health conditions such as cancer.
Given the harm warnings about food processing, you would think that there would be solid evidence to show how food processing harms health in humans. but it’s not like that. Panels of US and UK scientists (both with and without a history of food industry funding) agreed that it is currently unclear whether food processing in itself harms health. I believe it would be good to do more research to understand ultra processed food and health. But this is a far cry from Van Tuelken’s claim that we are “eating food that isn’t food” and that ultra-processed food is worse for health than smoking.
The hype surrounding ultra-processed food is problematic because it can cause unnecessary anxiety in people who are already struggling with food or worried about their health. As well as confusing the public about what food is and is not healthy, the promotion of ultra-processed food can also distract from the food industry’s marketing and government action needed to restrict the sale of those foods. , which we already know are harmful to health. – Foods high in sugar, salt, saturated fat and calories. Perhaps in the future, stronger evidence may show that certain types of food processing can cause serious health problems. But until then, sensationalist messages and misleading claims about ultra-processed food are very real problems.
read this also:- Can technology clean our air? Atmospheric scientist gets a glimpse of the future