Ultra Processed Foods

Emblem for Skin Support - Reducing Intake of Ultra Processed Foods for Skin Health Module

Executive Summary

Diets high in ultra processed foods increase the chances of nutritional deficiencies, abnormal blood lipid levels, insulin resistance and various chronic diseases; which are all factors that can disrupt balanced sebum production.


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 [1, 2, 3].

This includes things such as:

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

These foods typically have the following characteristics [4, 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 .

Documented Benefits:

Diets low in ultraprocessed foods can:

  • Reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome [6]
  • Reduce the risk of obesity [7]
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease [8]
  • Lead to reduced intakes of added sugar, saturated fat and sodium [9]
  • Improve lipid metabolism [10]
  • Increase the amount of essential nutrients in your diet [11]

What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a term used to define obesity, arterial hypertension, alterations in glucose metabolism and low HDL cholesterol.

Why It’s Important for Inflammatory Skin Disease

Characteristics most important for individuals affected by inflammatory skin disorders:

  • More stable blood sugar levels
  • Improved lipid metabolism
  • Improved nutrient availability

Expected improvements:

  • Balanced sebum production
  • Improved sebum composition

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

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

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