If whatever you eat or drink now is prepackaged, there is a greater chance that they are more laboratory products than real food, a new study finds.
The Western diet is a primary driver of the American obesity epidemic and that diet is notoriously rich in sugar, fat and processed foods.
In fact, most snacks, bread, cookies, dressings and drinks that are included in a package are not only processed but also ultra-processed, according to new research from Northwestern University.
More than 70 percent of the 200,000 pre-packaged products that the scientists analyzed were mostly made in the laboratory or extracted from whole foods or developed in a laboratory – and if the current trend continues, that number will continue to rise to 100 percent.
On a certain shelf in the supermarket, more than 70% of the packaged food is probably & # 39; ultra-processed & # 39 ;, which means they are more laboratory products than real food.
The US has been processing food since the 1940s – starting with mergers and acquisitions, first produced in 1941.
Processing is a comprehensive term for a number of techniques for modifying meat, vegetables and fruit, including everything from chopping to extracting components or oils to freeze-drying, removing toxic aspects and adding preservatives.
The advantage is that these foods last longer and are faster and easier to prepare for consumers.
But this process usually also means that by the time you eat or drink a packaged food, it has less nutritional value than the source material and can have additives such as sugars and preservatives that make the product less healthy.
The US requires labeling that discloses nutritional values and makeup for packaged food, but does not have a formal assessment system for them.
To get a standardized measurement and comparison, Northwestern University used the Health Star Rating system that was approved for ranking the quality and health of packaged food in Australia and New Zealand.
Almost every gram of every bread product that the scientists analyzed was ultra-processed (blue) and they contained a lot of saturated fats, calories, sugar and sodium
Snacks such as crisps and prepackaged pastries are processed almost completely
On average, packaged food scored only 2.7 of the five possible Health Star points.
And 71 percent of the products fell into the & # 39; ultra-processed & # 39; category, which means that they consisted entirely or almost entirely of extracts and substances derived from food and made in the laboratory using fatty fats and starches .
They contain almost no real food, and are usually empty calories with little nutritional value.
Among the top 25 packaged food manufacturers sold in the US, according to the Euromonitor international rankings (which are payment wall and not mentioned in the study), only one non-negligible amount of real food in more than half of its products left behind.
More than 90 percent of the products made by 14 of those 25 companies were classified as ultra-processed.
& # 39; To say that our food supply is being processed strongly, no one will be shocked, but it is important that we keep food and beverage producers responsible by constantly documenting how they are doing in providing healthy food for consumers & # 39; , said lead research author Abigail Baldridge, a biostatistician at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Of the more than 200,000 products analyzed, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes were the least processed (pink), but even these apparently pure foods were not all real food (blue)
The worst of the worst food and beverage-like products were not soft drinks, or even bars, but bread products.
Loaves of bread generally contain a lot of unhealthy saturated fat, sugar, sodium and calories.
Perhaps not surprisingly packaged fruit, nuts, vegetables, and legumes, and edible oils were the least processed, according to the new study, published in the Nutrients Journal.
But an alarming part of every category of the handy, inexpensive, packaged foods that we so easily throw into our shopping baskets was processed to an inch of food.
In May, a first study of its kind from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that highly processed foods are not only related to, but also cause overeating and weight gain.
In addition to this and a growing number of studies on the dangers of the Western diet, the findings of the new study are "cause for concern, with American obesity levels and the number of chronic diseases that still place a heavy burden on the American health system" wrote the authors.
& # 39; Research has shown that there is a significant positive relationship between the availability of ultra-processed foods in households and the national prevalence of obesity in adults. & # 39;
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