The Biden administration could warn Americans against eating chicken nuggets, white bread and breakfast cereals as part of the biggest shakeup of dietary advice in decades.
Since the 1970s, the federal government has recommended that people avoid foods high in sodium, sugar and saturated fat and eat more vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein.
But a mountain of research in recent years has shown that eating ultra-processed foods (those packed with artificial flavors, colors, additives, and ingredients) can cause a host of chronic diseases.
For the first time, the expert panel that determines the foods Americans eat will examine the science of obesity and ultra-processed foods for its next set of regulations in 2025.
It could cause them to discourage staples of the American diet like chicken nuggets, sweetened breakfast cereals, and boxed macaroni and cheese.
DailyMail.com has discovered that snacks, fast foods and even salad kits can have up to 120 hard-to-pronounce ingredients, making them ultra-processed.
Mountains of studies show that eating too many processed foods dramatically increases the risk of premature death, dementia, and heart disease.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years.
The committee is examining whether consumption of ultra-processed foods influences “growth, size, body composition, risk of overweight and obesity, and weight loss and maintenance.”
It is also asked whether these foods increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, cognitive decline and premature death.
These guidelines determine which foods are part of the National School Lunch Program, which serves 30 million American children.
Today, ultra-processed foods like pizza, Lunchables, and Cheez-Its can be found on school lunch menus across the country.
This is because, while they are loaded with additives, they technically meet government standards for fat, protein, sodium, and whole grains.
These regulations also determine what foods are provided as part of government assistance programs and on military bases.
Many foods that are generally considered healthy, such as whole wheat bread and salad kits, are still considered processed.
The federal dietary guidelines were first published in 1977 by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs as dietary goals for the United States.
The main goals included “avoiding overweight,” “increasing consumption of complex carbohydrates and “natural” sugars, and “limiting sodium intake by reducing salt intake to approximately 5 grams per day.”
In 1980, this was changed to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which outlined seven principles for a healthy diet and recommended limiting sugar, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
WHAT ARE ULTRAPROCESSED FOODS?
Ultra-processed foods are high in fat, added sugar and salt, low in protein and fiber, and contain artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives.
The term covers foods that contain ingredients that a person would not add when cooking at home, such as chemicals, dyes, and preservatives.
Microwave meals, ice cream, sausages, fried chicken and ketchup are some of the most popular examples.
They differ from processed foods, which are processed to make them last longer or enhance their flavor, such as sausages, cheese and fresh bread.
Ultra-processed foods, such as sausages, cereals, cookies and soft drinks, are formulations made mostly or entirely from food-derived substances and additives.
They contain little or no unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, seeds and eggs.
Foods are often full of sugars, oils, fats and salt, as well as additives such as preservatives, antioxidants and stabilizers.
Ultra-processed foods are usually ready-to-eat, taste good, and are cheap.
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Ultra-processed foods have gone through multiple levels of processing and are usually full of fats, dyes, and very hard-to-pronounce preservatives. They target reward systems in the brain, similar to those triggered by tobacco products and illicit drugs.
Microwavable meals, snack mixes, and ice cream are common examples.
These foods have become ubiquitous in the American diet.
TO 2022 A study from Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute, for example, estimated that 73 percent of the U.S. food supply is ultra-processed.
And a study published in Frontiers in nutrition found that more than 60 percent of America’s caloric intake comes from these foods.
Mountains of research have shown that these foods can have detrimental health effects.
A clinical trial carried out in 2019 by the National Institutes of Health found that when participants ate a diet of ultra-processed foods, they consumed an extra 500 calories per day and gained weight much faster than when they ate primarily unprocessed foods.
A 2022 study published in the journal Neurology found that a 10 percent increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods could increase the risk of dementia.
Furthermore, a large cohort study in France showed that the same increase in ultra-processed foods led to an increased risk of breast cancer.
A global comparison study published in Obesity Reviews showed that an increase in per capita sales of ultra-processed foods and beverages was associated with higher body mass index (BMI).
The USDA’s considerations have already sparked negative reactions from the food industry. More than a dozen food industry trade and lobby groups have written letters to the government, urging leaders to be cautious about recommendations for ultra-processed foods.
In September, the Institute of Food Technologists wrote that food processing helps “preserve food longer and improve its shelf life, which minimizes food waste, is more affordable for consumers as they waste less, and ensures food and nutritional security when fresh foods cannot be consumed. available or accessible.’
And a letter from the American Frozen Foods Institute stated that the USDA committee “should not proceed with recommendations on the level of food processing as part of dietary recommendations.”
At least six other countries have issued guidelines urging people to reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods. In May, Mexico warned citizens to “avoid ultra-processed foods such as processed meats and sausages, chips, crackers, sweet bread and boxed cereals.”
In August, British researchers said the country was facing “a wave of harm” from ultra-processed foods.
The USDA’s list of considerations says the updated questions will be available when the committee formally begins reviewing the guidelines.