Ultra-processed foods are problematic because they contain flavors that are then turned into food items.
Ultra-processed meals include sugary beverages, a lot of morning cereals, and more contemporary inventions like so-called “plant-based” burgers, which are usually constructed of protein isolates and additional chemicals to make the dish appealing.
Extreme industrial processing methods are employed to create ultra-processed meals, which disrupt the natural structure of the food ingredients and remove many healthy elements, including fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Many of us are aware of the harmful consequences that highly processed foods have on human health.But it’s not obvious if this is merely a result of the low nutritional content of these meals. Two recent investigations have revealed that the health hazards may not be entirely attributable to inadequate diet. This implies that other criteria could be required to completely account for their health concerns.
The role inflammation plays
The first study, which examined more than 20,000 healthy Italian individuals, discovered that those who consumed the most ultra-processed meals were more likely to pass away before their time. According to the findings of the second study, which looked at more than 50,000 US male health professionals, a high intake of ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of developing certain diseases of colon cancer.
The most intriguing aspect of this research is that the health concerns associated with consuming a diet heavy in processed foods persisted even after taking into consideration how poorly nutrient-dense their diets were. This implies that other elements have a role in the negative effects of highly processed meals.
It also means that the correct nutrients may not be enough to make up for the illness risk associated with eating highly processed meals. Similar to this, the food industry may be avoiding important issues by trying to boost the nutritional value of highly processed meals by adding a few extra vitamins. There is a deeper issue with these meals.
What reasons, therefore, may account for why highly processed meals are so bad for us?
The Italian study discovered that those who consumed the most ultra-processed meals had greater levels of inflammatory indicators, such as a higher white blood cell count. For instance, if we develop a cold or get injured, our systems may begin to produce an inflammatory response. Our immune cells, such as white blood cells, get signals from the body in response, directing them to combat any incoming invaders (such as bacteria or viruses).
Our inflammatory reaction usually subsides rather quickly, but in rare cases, some people may experience persistent inflammation all throughout their body. This can harm tissue and is a factor in a number of chronic illnesses, including cancer as well as heart problems.
Numerous studies have revealed that eating poorly can make the body more inflammatory, which raises the chance of developing chronic illnesses. Given that those in the Italian research who consumed the most ultra-processed meals showed evidence of inflammation, this may indicate that inflammation plays a role in how and why ultra-processed foods raise disease risk. Several dietary additives included in ultra-processed meals (such as emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners) also cause an increase in intestinal inflammation.
According to some studies, highly processed meals create more inflammation because the body perceives them as foreign—much like an invasive bacterium. As a result, the body launches an inflammatory response known as “fast food fever.” As a result, this causes more inflammation throughout the body.
Inflammation is closely associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, even though the US colon cancer study did not determine if inflammation increased in the men consuming the most highly processed foods.
According to research, there are additional processes that may possibly contribute to the hazardous health issues caused by ultra-processed meals, including toxins in packaging and reduced renal function.
The simplest method to avoid this is to never eat ultra-processed meals since inflammatory reactions are hard-wired in our bodies. Also proven to be anti-inflammatory are several organic diets high in natural, unprocessed foods, such as the dietary patterns. This might also be the reason why plant-based diets free of highly processed foods can prevent chronic diseases. The effectiveness of an anti-inflammatory diet in reducing the negative effects of highly processed foods is currently unknown.
It could be challenging to just reduce your consumption of highly processed foods. Due to their extreme palatability and compelling marketing, ultra-processed foods can be extremely difficult for certain people to avoid.
Additionally, these items are not identified as such on food packaging. Looking at their components is the most reliable approach to recognising them. Emulsifiers, thickeners, protein isolates, and other industrial-sounding ingredients are frequently used as indicators of an ultra-processed meal. The greatest method to prevent the negative effects of ultra-processed foods is to prepare meals from scratch using natural ingredients.