fbpx

What’s Wrong With Ultra-Processed Foods?

Nisha Patel, MD, shares a bit about ultra-processed foods.

I am sure many of you have heard of “processed food.”

Many foods are processed to some extent, so it is not very helpful to make general statements such as “avoid all processed foods” as some processed foods can be considered healthful. This begs the question, how do we define processed foods?

This is where the NOVA Food Classification System comes into play. This system has been the easiest for me to understand & well regarded. It divides food into four separate categories based on the extent of industrial processing but NOT by the nutrient content.



I want to focus on group four, also known as ultra-processed foods.

Increased consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of negative health outcomes.

For example, a study by Fiolet et al. suggests there may be an association between ultra-processed food consumption and increased risk of overall cancer and breast cancer. The authors concluded a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet was associated with an increase of 12% in the risk of overall cancer and 11% in the risk of breast cancer.

We definitely need more studies evaluating this association with longer follow up but I did find this particular study interesting as it does support the importance of limiting ultra-processed in our diets for a variety of health reasons.



Ultra-processed foods are generally calorie dense and nutrient poor and are made to be highly profitable (lower cost ingredients, longer shelf life), convenient (ready to eat), tasty and with vivid packaging.

The food manufacturing industry is not obligated to state on food labels the processes or purpose of processes used in making their products.



According to a paper by Monteiro et al,

a practical way to identify ultra-processed is to see if the ingredient list contains at least one food substance never or rarely used in a kitchen: hydrolyzed proteins, soya protein isolate, gluten, casein, whey protein, mechanically separated meat, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, invert sugar, maltodextrin, dextrose, lactose, hydrogenated or interesterified oil & additives such as flavors, flavor enhancers, colors, emulsifiers, emulsifying salts, sweeteners, thickeners, anti-foaming agents, bulking agents, carbonating agents, foaming agents, gelling agents & glazing agents.

 

“The food manufacturing industry is not obligated to state on food labels the processes or purpose of processes used in making their products.”



I also want to highlight that group three, also known as processed foods does include canned fruits and vegetables.

The right variety of canned foods can be a great addition to healthy eating, hence I do not make blanket statements stating that ALL processed food is unhealthy. Even plant based milks and meat alternatives are considered processed or ultra processed depending on the brand if you apply the NOVA definition.

Bottom Line: It is important to try to limit your consumption of ultra-processed foods, no matter what dietary eating pattern you follow.



Sources:

PMID:
28322183
30744710
29444771
32819372

Share

Tweet this:

Earn CME credit:

This learning experience is powered by CMEfy - a platform that brings relevant CMEs to busy clinicians, at the right place and right time. Using short learning nudges, clinicians can reflect and unlock AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

Twitter

12/11: Twitter 101

Dana Corriel, MD shares everything”Twitter”, in a Twitter for Basics session. How does Twitter work? What do the words tweet, tag, retweet, hashtag mean? How does one engage?

I Have to Wait How Long?!?!

I Have to Wait How Long?!?!

David Epstein, MD, MS, FAAP discusses why it takes time to be seen for an acute illness and what makes up a medical visit.

Susan J. Baumgaertel, MD FACP

Navigating Your Health (with Dr. Susan Baumgaertel)

Dr. Baumgaertel draws upon her 30 years of experience as a physician in primary care internal medicine, and uses her personal story-telling style to communicate with you as if you are sitting right across from her. Pull up a chair and enjoy.

My DPC Story

Their DPC Stories

Physicians are increasingly looking to different practice models, as burnout rates continue to climb. This series explores the DPC model.

Sulagna Misra, MD

Sulagna Misra, MD

Imagine a place where you and your doctor work together to define your wellness goals and then develop a plan to meet those goals. That place is Misra Wellness.

Support A Platform that Celebrates Real Doctors

For just $10 a month, you can help keep this openly accessible site available to all & help us sposnor in more doctors.

I acknowledge that this site is not to be used for medical advice.

Play Video
Our Founder Answers Your BURNING Question

SoMeDocs

“Why should I become a member of SoMeDocs if I already have my own space online?”