Americans Eat Too Much Ultra-Processed Food, Says Study

Posted: Mar 10 2016, 9:26am CST | by , Updated: Mar 11 2016, 10:34pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Americans Eat Too Much Ultra Processed Food, Says Study
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More than half of calories in the US diet come from ultra-processed food and contributes to 90% added sugar intake.

The US diet is not ideal in many ways and most of the people don’t even realize how much unhealthy food they are consuming every day. 

New research has found that more than half of the calories consumed in the United States come from ultra-processed food, which can eventually lead to serious health issues like diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Ultra-processed foods are those products that include ingredients that are not generally used in homemade food such as flavorings, sweeteners and preservatives. These ingredients are mostly used to imitate the taste, to balance the texture or to preserve the food. These foods include soft drinks, sweets, sausages, breakfast cereals, pizzas, desserts, nuggets, instant noodles and soups.  

Ultra-processed foods comprise of a staggering 58% of all calories consumed by an American per day and contribute nearly 90% of all added sugar intake.

“The content of added sugars in ultra-processed foods (21.1% of calories) was eightfold higher than in processed foods (2.4%) and fivefold higher than in unprocessed or minimally processed foods.” Study reads. 

To reach the conclusion, researchers tracked the dietary data of more than 9000 people for one year (2009-10) and looked at the average content of added sugar. A strong connection emerged between the content of ultra-processed food and the overall intake of added sugars.

“What many consumers do not realize is that added sugars come in many forms in many highly processed foods that include desserts and sweets, but also include food like sausages, cereal bar, ketchup, French fries, salad dressings and frozen pizzas.” Samantha Heller, a nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, who was not involved in the study, said.

Researchers suggest that decreasing the consumption of ultra-processed food could be an effective way of reducing the intake of added sugar in US diet and it is necessary for maintaining good health since too much calories increase the risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and other complications.

“There is one relatively simple way to avoid excessive sugar – not replacing real food, such as minimally processed foods and freshly prepared dishes and meals, with ultra-processed foods and drink products.” Lead researcher Euridice Martinez Steele from University of Sao Paulo in Brazil said.

In other words, replace soft drinks, sweetened milk and flavored fruit juices with fresh juices, water and milk and cut the consumption of chemical filled food. For instance, pizzas can be made at home. It may require a bit effort but the taste and quality will be better than their frozen versions. 

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The Author

Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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