French fries, sodas and frozen pizzas seem to be full of salt, sugar and fat, but now scientists are trying to understand if something like this in processed foods can be bad for us.
NEW YORK – fries, sodas and frozen pizzas seem to be full of salt, sugar and fat, but now scientists are trying to understand if something like this in processed foods can be bad for us.
The spread of cheap packaged foods is already associated with increasing obesity rates around the world. However, advice limiting processed foods may seem unhelpful given their convenience and the growing number of products in this category.
While the last three studies provide more guidance on how our increasingly industrialized food resources can affect our health, they also highlight how difficult nutrition and counseling may be. Here's what they say.
WHAT DOES "PROCESSED" MEAN?
Whether it's curing, freezing, grinding or pasteurizing, almost all food products are processed. Although self-processing does not make food unhealthy, 'processed food' is generally a negative term.
To better identify the processed food the most worrying, scientists have developed a system that groups food into four categories. It is far from perfect, but the system says that highly processed foods mainly consist of industrialized ingredients and additives, with little or no whole food.
Soda, packaged cookies, instant noodles and chicken nuggets are just some examples of highly processed foods. But there are also products that may seem healthy, like breakfast cereals, energy bars and some yoghurts.
WHAT BITCH WITH PROCESSED FOOD?
Cheap packaged food products are everywhere, including at ticket offices, gas stations and vending machines, and a very small four-week clinical trial can deepen our knowledge of why this probably contributes to the rise in obesity.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that people eat an average of 500 extra calories a day while feeding mainly processed foods, compared to when the same people were fed with minimally processed food. Although scientists have tried to match meals to nutrients such as fat, fiber and sugar.
Twenty participants were allowed to eat as much or less as they wanted, and reported to the clinic to monitor their health and behavior.
This is not all bad news.
In another questionnaire study, researchers in France found that people who ate more processed foods were more likely to have heart disease. A similar study in Spain showed that consuming more processed food was associated with a higher risk of death in general.
WHAT IS FOOD ON PROCESSED FOOD?
In addition to the fact that they taste really good, there may be other reasons why it is so difficult to stop eating food like puffs and ice cream.
When feeding minimally processed foods, people in the clinical trial produced more hormones that suppress appetite and less hunger hormone. The reason for the biological reaction is not clear. Another discovery: people ate faster processed foods.
"These foods tend to be softer and easier to chew and swallow," said Kevin Hall, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health who conducted the study.
Hall noted that the source of nutrients could be important. For example, whole fruit and vegetable fibers can be better to make people feel fuller than the types of fiber added to packaged food products such as biscuits, yogurt and even carbonated beverages.
In a French study, author Mathilde Touvier also noted the largely unexplored effects of the "cocktail" of additives used in the production of various processed foods that we consume.
All three studies have large reservations. Research in the US was small, and individual behaviors were very diverse: some of them consumed more or less the same amount of calories on both diets, while others consumed much more on a processed diet.
Meals in two diets were judged to be similarly pleasant, but Hall noted that it was possible that the participants would say what they think they should. The diet of processed foods includes products such as salted nuts and whole milk compared to unsalted nuts and milk with a lower fat content to the unprocessed diet.
In French and Spanish studies, there may be other habits and environmental factors that explain differences in health risks. The studies also did not reflect the wider population. In the Spanish study, the participants were university graduates and relatively younger. And although processed food was associated with a higher risk of death, the total number of deaths was still relatively small.
WHAT SHOULD YOU EAT?
Even without the latest research, advice on reducing processed foods probably makes sense for most people. Minimal processed food is richer in nutrients and more difficult to overeat, because they are not so widely available and convenient.
Still, following this advice can be difficult, especially when it comes to people with limited time and money that they can spend on food.
"What frustrates me is the message," Change the way you eat, "without wondering why people eat in the way they eat," said Sarah Bowen, a professor who studies food and inequalities at the University of North Carolina.
Another challenge is the wide spectrum of processed food and the distinction that can be better or worse, as companies constantly modify products to be more healthy. So while the latest research can give us more reasons to avoid industrialized food, they also highlight the difficulty in developing solutions.