Imagine you get a bag of your favorite potato chips at the grocery store, and emblazoned on top is a warning label stating that the snack you choose is “ultraprocessed.” What does that even mean?
You’ve no doubt heard that whole foods (such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, etc.) are a better choice all day, every day. However, many aisles of grocery stores are still designated for hundreds if not thousands of shiny, prepackaged, ready-to-eat “food” items (food is mentioned in prices because many of these products don’t provide any nutritional value). Other countries, such as Chile, Uruguay and Israel, have begun implementing nutrient warning labels for products that are high in fat, sugar, saturated fat and calories. However, such an idea has not yet come to fruition in the United States.
However, this is exactly what the last comment published in the leading medical journal BMJ He said it must happen to protect consumers from foods that may be harmful to their health. The report, titled “Warning: Ultra-Processed – A Call for Warnings About Foods That Aren’t Really Food,” “It’s time for consumers to have an opportunity to see ultra-processed foods for what they are: Foods that aren’t real foods, that contain nutrients but don’t.” On real feed, it is widely marketed by TNCs that offer options that are not real options.”
ouch. Tell us how you really feel, why not?
In response to interview questions, one of the commentary’s co-authors, Trish Kotter, Senior Adviser and Global Leader of the Food Policy Program at Vital Strategies, said, “More and more consumers are learning that ultra-processed foods contribute to poor health. These packaged foods cannot be made in your home or your kitchen, but marketing can make it very attractive and hard to distinguish from healthy foods.”
Cotter and her team believe that consumers should not take the time to check every food label and ingredient list for products they buy at the grocery store. Instead, potentially harmful food choices should carry a bold “ultra-processed” warning label in order to “enable consumers to make healthy decisions in real time.”
what’s the big deal?
Research has linked diets rich in ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of heart disease, weight gain, cancer, and even death. Although you can snack occasionally in moderation, surveys reveal that high-income countries get 50% or more of their total calories from ultra-processed foods while children and teens consume more.
Meanwhile, obesity, diabetes, some common cancers, heart disease and more continue to rise year after year, with some experts saying they have reached epidemic levels. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the rate of obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, while diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980. Statistics from the World Health Organization also reveal that more than 1.9 billion adults (aged 18 and over) have had Overweight in 2016 Of these, more than 650 million people were obese.
Additionally, a recent study showed that young adults fed a highly processed diet for two weeks typically ate an extra 500 calories per day compared to those who ate an unprocessed diet. Those who ate a highly processed diet gained an average of two pounds over the course of the two weeks (some gained more weight).
So, what exactly are ultra-processed foods?
According to a February 2019 Cambridge University Press report, ultra-processed foods are not “real food.” They are “formations of food items that are often modified by chemical processes and then assembled into ready-to-consume food and drink products using flavors, colors, emulsifiers, and countless other cosmetic additives. Most of them are manufactured and promoted by other giants. Their superior processing makes them highly profitable and attractive.” Extremely and intrinsically unhealthy.”
Ultra-processed foods also contain cosmetic additives including flavors, flavor enhancers, colors, emulsifiers, emulsifying salts, sweeteners, thickeners, anti-foaming agents, lumps, carbonation, foaming, gelling and glazes. Essentially, ultra-processed foods are products that have low-cost ingredients, long shelf lives, and appeal to our senses: sight, taste, smell, and touch. Some experts consider it addictive. According to the comment from BMJUltra-processed foods are “foods that cannot be made in your home kitchen because they have been chemically or physically converted using industrial processes.”
Dietitian Molly Hembrey put it this way: “One way to think about food processing is how many steps you need to take from the farm to the form you eat on your plate. Often some degree of simple processing, like mashing the pumpkin to get the desired canned squash or Quick freeze strawberries for a bag of frozen strawberries or shape whole wheat into pasta threads to produce a quality product.”
“But the addition of many ingredients, which require added sugars, sodium, and fat, as well as the addition of colours, flavors and preservatives, often takes the food away from its ‘complete’ form and reduces its nutritional value,” Hembree concluded.
I identified multiple sources of ultra-processed foods such as soft drinks, cakes, cookies, chips, ice cream, candy, cake mixes, frozen desserts, pre-made pizzas, some mass-produced breads, instant soups, packaged sandwich meats, hot dogs, and more. Ultra-processed food ingredients include “different types of sugars (fructose, high fructose corn syrup, ‘fruit juice concentrates’, maltodextrin, dextrose, lactose), modified oils (hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils) and protein sources (hydrogenated proteins, soy protein isolate, gluten). casein, whey protein and “mechanically separated meat”).
For more information, check out 8 fast food chains that contain toxic food wrappers.
What Products Should Get a Warning Label, STAT?
We asked nutritionists to name some examples of products that should have a “Ultra Processing” warning label printed on the front of the package. These were the items they identified.
This is a highly processed corn tortilla chip that’s loaded with sodium and contains unhealthy ingredients like MSG, vegetable oil, palm/soy oil, artificial colors, and many more ingredients that aren’t naturally derived, according to dietitian Amy Shapiro. And we bet it’s not the only commercial tortilla out there with this horrible ingredient list.
According to Shapiro, soft drinks are a high-sugar product that provides “no health benefits and has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.” With artificial colors, multiple forms of sweeteners and more, you think sodas are not only inexpensive but addictive and unhealthy.
“This bar, which is marketed as a healthy snack, contains more than six types of sugar in one piece,” Shapiro warns. “Sure, it has a ‘whole grain,’ but it also has guar gum and inflammatory ingredients that make it less than healthy and definitely super processed.”
“This product starts with refined wheat flour, and adds sugar, processed sausage linkage, artificial flavors, and other additives to make this a highly processed food,” Hembree said.
“Most products marketed as confectionery are mass-produced, including this one,” Hembree said. “The main ingredient is sugar, followed by more sugar like high-fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, and then a long list of added oils, chewing gum, colors, flavorings, and preservatives.”
With Fruity Pebbles, sugar is the second ingredient and hydrogenated vegetable oil is the third. “They use five different artificial colors and artificial flavors,” Shapiro said. Additionally, Fruity Pebbles contain the preservative BHA, which has been criticized for being carcinogenic.
Hembree said that Top Ramen definitely checks the boxes for the Super Processing class. And while stories circulate about artists and actors living in Top Ramen starving while trying to make it big (looking at you, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck), this super inexpensive product is made with a number of questionable ingredients. These include enriched flour, palm oil, food coloring, silicon dioxide, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, hydrolyzed corn protein, and more.
In addition to calling for warning labels on ultra-processed foods, Kotter and her colleagues are calling on government agencies and health food advocates to step up and regulate these types of items. In the meantime, there are things you can do to protect yourself.
Shapiro suggested choosing snacks made from whole foods, such as pickles, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, and food mixes. She said it’s best to plan ahead and pack your snacks so you can avoid buying a highly processed item.
Hembree is said to aim to consume minimal processed foods regularly. She also said that it’s okay to eat ultra-processed foods on special occasions (everything in moderation, right?). Doing so, she said, “will help combat obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.”
Until the warning labels are implemented, Cotter said, she will “continue to look for foods with five ingredients or less that sound like something I can make at home, and that’s the advice we’d give others.”