US food manufacturers are adding a record number of additives like preservatives, sweeteners and colors to their products, a major study shows.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that 60 percent of food and drink purchased in grocery stores by Americans is now processed.
This is 10 percent more than in 2001, despite major public health campaigns warning against obesity and increased awareness of fitness and diet.
The researchers found that frozen entrees, appetizers, pizza, and carbonated drinks were the worst offenders in terms of the volume of additives they contained.
Tons of research in recent years has shown that processed foods increase your risk of a number of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that a staggering 60 percent of food in grocery stores is now modified with additives (file image)
The graph above shows the change in additives in five food groups between 2001 and 2019. The steepest increase was in baby food. Data is in average additives per item
Lead study author Dr Elizabeth Dunford, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, said: “Our research clearly shows that the proportion of ultra-processed foods with additives in Americans’ shopping carts increased significantly between 2001 and 2019”.
“These findings concern us, given the growing evidence linking high consumption of processed foods with adverse health outcomes.”
Scientists analyzed the shopping carts of 100,000 US households across the country as part of the Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel.
Participants had to scan the barcodes of all the food they brought home in 2001 and 2019.
Each purchased food was checked to see if it contained any of the four additives: colors, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners.
The verified sweeteners included aspartame, which is often used in fizzy drinks that previous research has linked to cancer.
While the colors surveyed included erythrosine, or ‘Red 3’, used by leading brands to give their food a radiant red colour. It has also been previously linked to cancer and behavioral problems.
The data showed that households had purchased a total of 355,870 foods and beverages in 2001 on average. In 2019, it had risen 17 percent to 414,629.
The proportion of these foods that contained additives increased from 49.6 to 59.5 percent, the researchers said.
The average amount of additives in each feed also increased from 3.1 to 4.5 overall. And at the same time, the proportion of food that did not contain additives decreased.
In addition to frozen foods and soft drinks, the researchers also noted that baby foods had the steepest increase in additives, raising concerns about the impact this could have on the health of young children.
Dr Barry Popkin, a North Carolina nutritionist who participated in the research, said: “As manufacturers produce foods and beverages with an increasing number of additives, it is more important than ever to understand what is in the food that Americans buy.” and eat.
‘American consumers are demanding a much higher level of transparency from brands and retailers than in years past.
“We hope the findings from this study will be used to inform policymakers about where Americans, especially infants, are being exposed to additives and how the packaged food supply is changing.”
Breaking down foods by type, the researchers said baby food showed the steepest increase in additives with numbers doubling from 1.5 to 3.2 per item in
Other items that saw increases in additives included grain products such as pasta, cereals and baking mixes (up 28 percent), beverages (up 26 percent) and candy and snacks (up 22 percent).
Fats and oils were the only group that showed a significant drop in the amount of additives (48 percent less).
The researchers warned that the increase meant Americans were eating more ultra-processed foods and therefore consuming more sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
The researchers warned that the rise in ultra-processed foods meant Americans were consuming more sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
The researchers noted in the study that it was “unlikely” that the increase in color and flavor additives was “providing nutritional and health benefits.”
But they did point to research showing that the dyes had led to adverse behaviors, particularly among children.
They also said that increasing sweeteners, rather than sugar, increased the risk of negative changes in the gut microbiota.
The limitations of the study were that it did not include unpackaged fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, and loose bakery items because they do not have barcodes.
It is also unclear which foods the families actually consumed and which ended up in the trash can.
The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
WHAT ARE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS?
Artificial sweeteners are low-calorie or no-calorie chemicals used in place of sugar to sweeten foods and beverages.
They are found in thousands of products, from beverages, desserts, and prepared foods, to cakes, gum, and toothpaste.
Popular sweeteners approved for use in the UK include aspartame, sucralose and stevia.
Both Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute have said that sweeteners do not cause cancer.
And all of the sweeteners in it undergo strict safety tests before they can be used in food and beverages.
Proponents argue that sweeteners reduce calorie intake, control blood sugar levels, and prevent cavities.
However, studies have suggested that sweeteners may stimulate appetite and therefore increase the risk of weight gain and obesity.
Fountain: National Health Service