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Ultra-processed foods study

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  • lemurcat12lemurcat12 Posts: 30,886Member Member Posts: 30,886Member Member
    I want to make clear that I'm not trying to minimize the study, but just trying to clarify a few things, and I had an additional thought as to how to express the point I'm trying to make, so maybe worth posting again?

    Study indicates that a significant portion of the American diet is ultra processed foods (although Americans vary a lot in how many of these they consume). Those who consume the highest amount of ultra processed foods also consume excessive added sugar (based on the current recommendations).

    Possible interpretations:

    (1) we are consuming more added sugar than we should because we are eating ultra processed foods instead of home cooked foods, and they happen to contain more added sugar than the equivalent home cooked options.

    (2) we are consuming lots of ultra processed foods and attendant sugars because ultra processed foods are harder than home cooked foods to control the consumption of, because chemicals.

    or

    (3) the prevalence of ultra processed foods of particular types, namely dessert items (and also snacky stuff like chips which are not addressed) makes these items a lot easier and cheaper (if you include the value of time) than they used to be, and they have become tastier than the original versions of ultra processed foods due to the increase of such things as sugar (and for some items there was a switch from fat to sugar, although many are also still high fat). Due to this, many Americans have both largely replaced traditional sources of added sugar (like homemade cookies) with foods that happen to be ultra processed and increased their consumption of such food items, because they are so cheap and available.

    I think it's mostly (3). So focusing on the difference between an ultra processed cookie and a home made cookie or worrying about ultra processed foods in general (as some of them have perfectly reasonable nutrition profiles) seems to me to miss the point. The issue is whether we are including low nutrient "junk" food in our diets in excessive amounts, which I think on average Americans are. The existence of ultra processed foods simply enables this and makes it easier, but people are still making a choice to eat these foods. It would be no different if people focused on whole foods and yet baked cookies daily and ate many of them. It's just that's harder, so people don't (usually, with some exceptions).

    On the other hand, focusing on less processed foods isn't a bad strategy, as it often helps people (those who are comfortable cooking) be more mindful about creating a balanced meal with adequate protein and vegetables, and less likely to eat lots of packaged stuff, which might help them also be more mindful about their consumption of snacky stuff. I just don't think we should confuse the causal direction here -- which again is that people are choosing to eat lots of snacky stuff and dessert items and that stuff also happens to be ultra processed (not because they are ultra processed or that all ultra processed foods are the same). And, similarly, I don't think there's anything wrong with eating some of these ultra processed "junk" foods in moderation or that it makes much difference whether you do that or instead include similar amounts of home made or less processed options (like some commercial ice creams or bakery treats).
    edited March 2016
  • senecarrsenecarr Posts: 5,377Member Member Posts: 5,377Member Member
    tomteboda wrote: »
    Processed foods isn't scary enough, so a new term needed to be invented?

    That's ultron processed foods. On the plus side, there's no strings in ultron processed foods.
  • juggernaut1974juggernaut1974 Posts: 6,212Member Member Posts: 6,212Member Member
    tomteboda wrote: »
    Processed foods isn't scary enough, so a new term needed to be invented?

    Up next....LUDICROUS Processed foods.

    tumblr_inline_mo7nt4e4Mp1qz4rgp.gif
  • AnvilHeadAnvilHead Posts: 18,543Member Member Posts: 18,543Member Member
    tomteboda wrote: »
    Processed foods isn't scary enough, so a new term needed to be invented?

    Up next....LUDICROUS Processed foods.

    tumblr_inline_mo7nt4e4Mp1qz4rgp.gif

    Some people can never get enough scaremongering.
  • Need2Exerc1seNeed2Exerc1se Posts: 13,589Member Member Posts: 13,589Member Member
    tomteboda wrote: »
    Processed foods isn't scary enough, so a new term needed to be invented?

    I've seen numerous posts on MFP use the term "ultra processed food" or ask that others use it. And since some members insist that things like frozen vegetables are "processed food" I think it is a needed term.

    I'm pretty surprised that only 60% of calories come from ultra processed foods. I would have guess higher.
  • EvgeniZyntxEvgeniZyntx Posts: 24,424Member Member Posts: 24,424Member Member
    It does suggest that a strategy of demonising sugar or ultra processed food will be effective for some people. "Reduce the crap" strategies - even if poorly based on actual nutritional knowledge - will result in lower calorie consumption.

    But it is also likely that it is part of the issues that then results in yo-yoing, poor food relationship, etc.

    edited March 2016
  • weaversouthweaversouth Posts: 3Member Member Posts: 3Member Member
    I disagree that most people "don't eat that much processed food" (I forget who posted that one) but, where I live, in Central Alabama, all you have to do is look at some of the people checking out at Winn-Dixie and look at what they're buying. Aside from running up their grocery bills (and a lot of people here are on "food-stamp-programs" for themselves and their families so there isn't a lot of wiggle-room there) they are not going to get much nutrition out of the stuff they're buying. And, BTW, it doesn't just stop with the people on govt subsidies: I see plenty of people with young kids loading up on the processed stuff and not a lot of fresh vegs or other "ingredients" etc in those carts. I KNOW it seems easier to give the kids a can of Spaghetti-O's than to cook up some pasta and make some of your own sauce, but they probably don't realise that. ANYWAY, it's too bad that we don't still teach "Home Ec" in hs and try and get some sense and knowledge into the heads of the people who will be raising families in a very short time...(and boys should be taking it, as well!!!)
  • EvgeniZyntxEvgeniZyntx Posts: 24,424Member Member Posts: 24,424Member Member
    I disagree that most people "don't eat that much processed food" (I forget who posted that one) [... and other stuff]

    No one posted that.

  • Need2Exerc1seNeed2Exerc1se Posts: 13,589Member Member Posts: 13,589Member Member
    I disagree that most people "don't eat that much processed food" (I forget who posted that one) [... and other stuff]

    No one posted that.

    Right, they said "many". Also, since Alabama is usually rated one of the most unhealthy states in the US it wouldn't typical of the entire country.

    I was surprised that only 60% of the calories came from ultra-processed foods, but I think my state is also near the bottom of that list.
    edited March 2016
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Posts: 20,809Member Member Posts: 20,809Member Member
    I disagree that most people "don't eat that much processed food" (I forget who posted that one) but, where I live, in Central Alabama, all you have to do is look at some of the people checking out at Winn-Dixie and look at what they're buying. Aside from running up their grocery bills (and a lot of people here are on "food-stamp-programs" for themselves and their families so there isn't a lot of wiggle-room there) they are not going to get much nutrition out of the stuff they're buying. And, BTW, it doesn't just stop with the people on govt subsidies: I see plenty of people with young kids loading up on the processed stuff and not a lot of fresh vegs or other "ingredients" etc in those carts. I KNOW it seems easier to give the kids a can of Spaghetti-O's than to cook up some pasta and make some of your own sauce, but they probably don't realise that. ANYWAY, it's too bad that we don't still teach "Home Ec" in hs and try and get some sense and knowledge into the heads of the people who will be raising families in a very short time...(and boys should be taking it, as well!!!)

    I don't think the pasta rings in Spaghetti-Os are any more processed than a dried pasta would be.

  • lemurcat12lemurcat12 Posts: 30,886Member Member Posts: 30,886Member Member
    It does suggest that a strategy of demonising sugar or ultra processed food will be effective for some people. "Reduce the crap" strategies - even if poorly based on actual nutritional knowledge - will result in lower calorie consumption.

    But it is also likely that it is part of the issues that then results in yo-yoing, poor food relationship, etc.

    The last sentence is my concern.

    I do think cutting out easy to access junk food (and non junk food that happens to be super processed) is a good way to cut calories for some, at least in the short term. It's actually what I did back in my early 30s, although I was never a huge consumer of most of the kinds of foods we are talking about. Deciding that I should be a purist about what I ate simply eliminated a lot of the temptation to eat stuff that was just around. It's not because those products were higher cal or tastier than something I could have made (or bought at a nice restaurant that met my then-standards). It's that I simply wasn't going to make them nearly as often as they were on offer, and I ended up mostly just eating at meals (where for me I'm less likely to overeat).

    That said, I was able to adjust and overeat even following this plan, over time, especially when I got less active.

    AND, maybe I'm an idealist, but I always think that understanding the facts and basing choices on accurate information is so much healthier and better. I don't think I eat a bad diet doing it this way -- I think I actually eat a better diet than when I was more informed by "these foods good, these foods bad" type thinking.
  • senecarrsenecarr Posts: 5,377Member Member Posts: 5,377Member Member
    There are a few posts around that insist that people know what others eat based on looking at shopping carts, peaking in windows, etc.
    I find this interesting because, in a scientific sense, I don't even know what I eat unless I consult my food logs. Dieticians logging their food even get it wrong by about 25% at first according to at least one study.
  • stevencloserstevencloser Posts: 8,917Member Member Posts: 8,917Member Member
    lemurcat12 wrote: »
    It does suggest that a strategy of demonising sugar or ultra processed food will be effective for some people. "Reduce the crap" strategies - even if poorly based on actual nutritional knowledge - will result in lower calorie consumption.

    But it is also likely that it is part of the issues that then results in yo-yoing, poor food relationship, etc.

    The last sentence is my concern.

    I do think cutting out easy to access junk food (and non junk food that happens to be super processed) is a good way to cut calories for some, at least in the short term. It's actually what I did back in my early 30s, although I was never a huge consumer of most of the kinds of foods we are talking about. Deciding that I should be a purist about what I ate simply eliminated a lot of the temptation to eat stuff that was just around. It's not because those products were higher cal or tastier than something I could have made (or bought at a nice restaurant that met my then-standards). It's that I simply wasn't going to make them nearly as often as they were on offer, and I ended up mostly just eating at meals (where for me I'm less likely to overeat).

    That said, I was able to adjust and overeat even following this plan, over time, especially when I got less active.

    AND, maybe I'm an idealist, but I always think that understanding the facts and basing choices on accurate information is so much healthier and better. I don't think I eat a bad diet doing it this way -- I think I actually eat a better diet than when I was more informed by "these foods good, these foods bad" type thinking.

    I do think that in many cases, completely cutting out certain foods is treating symptoms instead of the causes and can lead to the same problems with the foods you did not cut out or introduced as a result. It's running away from the problem to leave for your future self to deal with.
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Posts: 20,809Member Member Posts: 20,809Member Member
    senecarr wrote: »
    There are a few posts around that insist that people know what others eat based on looking at shopping carts, peaking in windows, etc.
    I find this interesting because, in a scientific sense, I don't even know what I eat unless I consult my food logs. Dieticians logging their food even get it wrong by about 25% at first according to at least one study.

    I would add that looking at someone's cart is a really unreliable way to know what they're eating. I shop at a couple of different places. If you look at my grocery cart in the summer (when I get all my vegetables at the farmer's market), you would conclude that my diet is horrifyingly low in vegetables and fruit. If you look in my basket at Whole Foods, you would think I'm a vegan that lives on special vegan products (because I buy all my regular food for cheaper at the grocery store and only use Whole Foods for the stuff I can't get elsewhere).

    Maybe the parent behind me at the grocery store does feed her kid frozen pizza without vegetables every night. Or maybe this is her mid-week stock-up shop and she's just picking up the frozen pizza because it's a crazy week and her fridge is already full of salad greens so she doesn't need any more. I don't know. That's why I refrain from forming an opinion on something that I don't know enough about.

  • lemurcat12lemurcat12 Posts: 30,886Member Member Posts: 30,886Member Member
    I will also note (again) that not all ultra processed foods are the same. I've been bothered since I started MFP that one way I cut calories and met my macros was by eating a lot more meat and other animal products than I used to. I don't plan to become a vegetarian (I am not ethically bothered by eating fish, and not other meat so long as the animal was humanely raised or is game), but I do want to figure out how to adjust my diet to one that's not so reliant on meat/dairy/eggs. As a result, I've been phasing in a number of days without meat (ideally without animal products, but so far I've not done that as well), and have been much more open to experimenting with some of the ultra processed soy and gluten-based meat substitutes than I used to be (and also bought some unsweetened almond milk), and have been relying some on protein powder. I'm also using canned beans because I am much more likely to eat beans (other than soy) if I get canned, and bought baba ghanoush because I didn't have time to make it from scratch and wanted some.

    I expect if I keep eating this way I will end up finding alternatives to a lot of these things (for example, making my own cashew milk and baba ghanoush, getting organized enough to use dried beans), and I am not sure what meat subs are considered "ultra processed," although it may be all of them (I have always eaten tofu and tempeh, am trying seitan, and also bought some seasoned soy-based crumbles). The most processed of these (crumbles) are likely something I'd end up making at home (so far, not a fan), similarly.

    But all that aside, I don't think that the "ultra processed" nature of these products makes my current diet less healthy than it was -- that's to focus on the label ("ultra processed") vs. what's actually in there. And so far it has not added to the sugar in my diet at all (I'm eating more fruit, too -- that does).
    edited March 2016
  • yarwellyarwell Posts: 10,573Member Member Posts: 10,573Member Member
    A similar study using barcode scanning backs up the % calories "highly processed (61.0%) foods and beverages"
  • stealthqstealthq Posts: 4,307Member Member Posts: 4,307Member Member
    lemurcat12 wrote: »
    It does suggest that a strategy of demonising sugar or ultra processed food will be effective for some people. "Reduce the crap" strategies - even if poorly based on actual nutritional knowledge - will result in lower calorie consumption.

    But it is also likely that it is part of the issues that then results in yo-yoing, poor food relationship, etc.

    The last sentence is my concern.

    I do think cutting out easy to access junk food (and non junk food that happens to be super processed) is a good way to cut calories for some, at least in the short term. It's actually what I did back in my early 30s, although I was never a huge consumer of most of the kinds of foods we are talking about. Deciding that I should be a purist about what I ate simply eliminated a lot of the temptation to eat stuff that was just around. It's not because those products were higher cal or tastier than something I could have made (or bought at a nice restaurant that met my then-standards). It's that I simply wasn't going to make them nearly as often as they were on offer, and I ended up mostly just eating at meals (where for me I'm less likely to overeat).

    That said, I was able to adjust and overeat even following this plan, over time, especially when I got less active.

    AND, maybe I'm an idealist, but I always think that understanding the facts and basing choices on accurate information is so much healthier and better. I don't think I eat a bad diet doing it this way -- I think I actually eat a better diet than when I was more informed by "these foods good, these foods bad" type thinking.

    I don't think you're an idealist. I think once people know and understand the facts, it is up to them to choose what they want to do with that information when it comes to their own nutrition. I think many, maybe most, would choose to eat better than they did when they didn't know that information.

    Some won't, of course. Just like some start/don't give up smoking when they know damn well what damage it can do - thinking here of a friend's husband that persisted in smoking in her room while she was on oxygen even after it was explained numerous times exactly what a lit cigarette at the wrong moment could do. She was on hospice and at home, not at a hospital (unfortunately) where security would have shown him the door.
  • Need2Exerc1seNeed2Exerc1se Posts: 13,589Member Member Posts: 13,589Member Member
    senecarr wrote: »
    There are a few posts around that insist that people know what others eat based on looking at shopping carts, peaking in windows, etc.
    I find this interesting because, in a scientific sense, I don't even know what I eat unless I consult my food logs. Dieticians logging their food even get it wrong by about 25% at first according to at least one study.

    I would add that looking at someone's cart is a really unreliable way to know what they're eating. I shop at a couple of different places. If you look at my grocery cart in the summer (when I get all my vegetables at the farmer's market), you would conclude that my diet is horrifyingly low in vegetables and fruit. If you look in my basket at Whole Foods, you would think I'm a vegan that lives on special vegan products (because I buy all my regular food for cheaper at the grocery store and only use Whole Foods for the stuff I can't get elsewhere).

    Maybe the parent behind me at the grocery store does feed her kid frozen pizza without vegetables every night. Or maybe this is her mid-week stock-up shop and she's just picking up the frozen pizza because it's a crazy week and her fridge is already full of salad greens so she doesn't need any more. I don't know. That's why I refrain from forming an opinion on something that I don't know enough about.

    This is certainly true on an individual level. Looking in my buggy would give a skewed idea of my diet since most of my vegetables and fruit are not store bought. It might also look like we are pescatarian since on most trips the only meat we buy is fish/seafood.

    But when you live and shop in an area you see all the buggies on every trip. And it gives you a pretty good idea of how most people in your area eat. Looking at the roadside on garbage pickup day can also confirm this when you see multiple bags full of ultra-processed food packages.
  • stealthqstealthq Posts: 4,307Member Member Posts: 4,307Member Member
    senecarr wrote: »
    There are a few posts around that insist that people know what others eat based on looking at shopping carts, peaking in windows, etc.
    I find this interesting because, in a scientific sense, I don't even know what I eat unless I consult my food logs. Dieticians logging their food even get it wrong by about 25% at first according to at least one study.

    I would imagine people seeing my shopping cart at Kroger are amazed I'm still alive. I go there for diet soda, some ice cream brands, Oreos and occasionally TastyKake. I go maybe once every couple of months

    On the other hand, I'm in Whole Paycheck or Central Market a couple of times a week for vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, dairy, etc. On the whole, those people would think I eat a fabulous diet.

    The truth is somewhere between the two. And something tells me I'm not the only one that goes to multiple markets for their food.
  • French_PeasantFrench_Peasant Posts: 1,631Member Member Posts: 1,631Member Member
    I disagree that most people "don't eat that much processed food" (I forget who posted that one) but, where I live, in Central Alabama, all you have to do is look at some of the people checking out at Winn-Dixie and look at what they're buying. Aside from running up their grocery bills (and a lot of people here are on "food-stamp-programs" for themselves and their families so there isn't a lot of wiggle-room there) they are not going to get much nutrition out of the stuff they're buying. And, BTW, it doesn't just stop with the people on govt subsidies: I see plenty of people with young kids loading up on the processed stuff and not a lot of fresh vegs or other "ingredients" etc in those carts. I KNOW it seems easier to give the kids a can of Spaghetti-O's than to cook up some pasta and make some of your own sauce, but they probably don't realise that. ANYWAY, it's too bad that we don't still teach "Home Ec" in hs and try and get some sense and knowledge into the heads of the people who will be raising families in a very short time...(and boys should be taking it, as well!!!)

    I don't think the pasta rings in Spaghetti-Os are any more processed than a dried pasta would be.

    Based on the other processed food thread, I just started to dig into the actual foods shown in table 1 of this study, and find the way the have delineate the foods into "mutually exclusive" to be utterly baffling. Apparently all pasta falls under "unprocessed" and all breads fall under "ultraprocessed." So, white pasta is presented as being healthier than 100% whole grain bread. This is just stupid. And beer and wine are just "processed" while 100% organic grape juice is "ultraprocessed." Again--stupid. Milk is unprocessed, but if you set your milk bucket aside and the cream rises to the top and you skim it, it magically becomes "processed." If you grab a piece of honycomb out of a beehive and eat it--guess what--magically processed! Roots & tubers are unprocessed but if they become a french fry or "potato product" then they are magically ultraprocessed. What if you fry your unprocessed cassava or bacon or eggs (which, ironically, removes the fat)? So much stupid. It burns!
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