Ultra-Processed Foods

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    Michael Anders
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    Ultra processed foods are products which are primarily made from a combination of substances extracted/refined from whole foods. And statistics indicate these foods contribute to nearly 60% of the typical North American diet ["Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study." Eurueddice Martuednez Steele, Larissa Galastri Baraldi, Maria Laura da Costa Louzada, Jean-Claude Moubarac, Dariush Mozaffarian, Carlos Augusto Monteiro (March 10, 2016)" rel="popover" data-placement="top" role="button" data-trigger="focus" data-html="true">1, "Consumption of ultra-processed foods and likely impact on human health. Evidence from Canada." Jean-Claude Moubarac, Ana Paula Bortoletto Martins, Rafael Moreira Claro, Renata Bertazzi Levy, Geoffrey Cannon, Carlos Augusto Monteiro (November 4, 2013)" rel="popover" data-placement="top" role="button" data-trigger="focus" data-html="true">2, "Ultra-processed products are becoming dominant in the global food system." C A Monteiro, J-C Moubarac, G Cannon, S W Ng, B Popkin (October 23, 2013)" rel="popover" data-placement="top" role="button" data-trigger="focus" data-html="true">3].

    This includes things such as:

    • Burgers
    • Frozen pasta dishes
    • Chicken nuggets
    • Potato chips
    • Candy
    • Cereal bars
    • Sugared drinks
    • And various other snacks.

    Unfavorable Characteristics

    These foods are typically have the following properties ["Ultra-processed products are becoming dominant in the global food system." C A Monteiro, J-C Moubarac, G Cannon, S W Ng, B Popkin (October 23, 2013)" rel="popover" data-placement="top" role="button" data-trigger="focus" data-html="true">4, "Consumption of ultra-processed foods and likely impact on human health. Evidence from Canada." Jean-Claude Moubarac, Ana Paula Bortoletto Martins, Rafael Moreira Claro, Renata Bertazzi Levy, Geoffrey Cannon, Carlos Augusto Monteiro (November 4, 2013)" rel="popover" data-placement="top" role="button" data-trigger="focus" data-html="true">5]:

    • Sold by transnational corporations
    • Energy dense and have a high glycemic load
    • Low dietary fiber, micro-nutrients and phytochemicals
    • High in unhealthy fats, free sugars and sodium

    When consumed in minimal amounts these foods are harmless, but recent dietary trends have made these foods a primary source of calories for a large portion of the population. Alongside this trend industrialized nations have seen drastic rise in chronic disease and obesity.

    Diets high in ultraprocessed foods have been shown to be associated with a higher rate of metabolic syndrome. And metabolic syndrome is a term used to define obesity, arterial hypertension, alterations in glucose metabolism and low HDL cholesterol ["Relationship between ultra-processed foods and metabolic syndrome in adolescents from a Brazilian Family Doctor Program." Letuedcia Ferreira Tavares, Sandra Costa Fonseca, Maria Luiza Garcia Rosa, Edna Massae Yokoo (January 8, 2013)" rel="popover" data-placement="top" role="button" data-trigger="focus" data-html="true">6].

    Additional Notes:

    • Majority of ultraprocessed foods are derived from chemical or mechanical manipulation of just three food items: corn, wheat and soy
    • These foods undergo the remove of moisture to improve shelf life and this can drastically increase the amount of calories in a single bite
    • There are many products on the market which are marked as “healthy”, but in reality these are just well packaged ultraprocessed foods with a few added ingredients for marketing appeal

    Ideas for Integration:

    • Everything begins with our food purchasing patterns, by simply buying fewer ultraprocessed foods you directly limit your exposure
    • When dining out, give preference to places that prepare from scratch
    • Understand the economical incentives behind these food choices and this may change you perspective on the matter altogether
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