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Processed foods cause more weight gain

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  • PhirrgusPhirrgus Posts: 1,904Member Member Posts: 1,904Member Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    But they did not eat the same amount of calories.

    I like the study too, and am not remotely surprised at the results. IMO, if not counting, one helpful strategy is to do more home cooking and eat more whole foods. But this does not mean that "processing" or "chemicals" and not calories are the source of weight gain.
    Disclaimer..sorry for all the bolds..for some reason my mobile device is being a pain with the quotes...
    I'm still a little torn on this. In order for the study to determine that the "processed" foods led to an average 500 calorie increase, they had to have an idea how many calories were being consumed, so some type of counting had to take place, even though it states they were instructed to eat as much as they like.

    The participants' diets were precisely matched so that regardless of whether they were offered processed or unprocessed meals, they were given exactly the same amount of protein, fat, carbs, salt, and sugar to eat. They were instructed to eat as much food as they liked in 60-minute meal windows. They spent two weeks eating a processed diet, then switched and did two more weeks eating fresh meals.


    And while I'm not clear either on exactly what constitutes "processed" vs ultra processed etc...they do give a good sample of what they considered processed.

    Participants consumed, on average, 500 more calories a day on the ultra-processed diet, when meals included foods like hot dogs, freezer pancakes, canned chili, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Those eating processed foods also gained about two pounds in those two weeks. Regardless of the person's weight or sex, they ate more carbs and fat on a processed-food diet.

    The difference between processed and unprocessed meals is subtle on the surface; both diet groups ate cereals, eggs, beans, and pastas. However, in the unprocessed group, the ingredients were fresher, with no additives or preservatives in the meals. Additionally, whole foods and unrefined ingredients were used (eggs and potatoes were prepared from scratch, for example).
  • amusedmonkeyamusedmonkey Posts: 9,619Member Member Posts: 9,619Member Member
    It's common sense to me that if a food is larger in volume I'm more likely to feel full eating it (they matched for nutrients but did they match for volume?), and that if I like the food enough to want to eat more of it beyond fullness I will be eating more of it beyond fullness. This applies to both processed and minimally processed foods. Try and stop me from overeating nuts or dates because they're low volume and I need a large amount of them to be mentally satisfied.

    Only tangentially related to this study, but I think there is one thing I rarely see discussed. If a person's diet is mainly minimally processed because that's their eating preference, would ultra-processed foods have the same effect if matched for volume, not just for nutrients? Would that person be prone to overeating their familiar and preferred diet than they would their less familiar and less preferred diet? We like to classify and generalize, but are we really making the right classifications and reaching for the right data? Would it be fair to say that many of the people tested were very familiar with some of these ultra-processed foods that had a consistent familiar taste and enjoyed them?

    I remember watching a documentary (unrelated to nutrition) how a person who lived in a tribe then visited a modern city and ate the food, they lost weight because the meat did not taste like meat, and everything had a weird flavor and texture.
    edited May 17
  • PhirrgusPhirrgus Posts: 1,904Member Member Posts: 1,904Member Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    Phirrgus wrote: »
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    But they did not eat the same amount of calories.

    I like the study too, and am not remotely surprised at the results. IMO, if not counting, one helpful strategy is to do more home cooking and eat more whole foods. But this does not mean that "processing" or "chemicals" and not calories are the source of weight gain.
    Disclaimer..sorry for all the bolds..for some reason my mobile device is being a pain with the quotes...
    I'm still a little torn on this. In order for the study to determine that the "processed" foods led to an average 500 calorie increase, they had to have an idea how many calories were being consumed, so some type of counting had to take place, even though it states they were instructed to eat as much as they like.

    The participants' diets were precisely matched so that regardless of whether they were offered processed or unprocessed meals, they were given exactly the same amount of protein, fat, carbs, salt, and sugar to eat. They were instructed to eat as much food as they liked in 60-minute meal windows. They spent two weeks eating a processed diet, then switched and did two more weeks eating fresh meals.


    And while I'm not clear either on exactly what constitutes "processed" vs ultra processed etc...they do give a good sample of what they considered processed.

    Participants consumed, on average, 500 more calories a day on the ultra-processed diet, when meals included foods like hot dogs, freezer pancakes, canned chili, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Those eating processed foods also gained about two pounds in those two weeks. Regardless of the person's weight or sex, they ate more carbs and fat on a processed-food diet.

    The difference between processed and unprocessed meals is subtle on the surface; both diet groups ate cereals, eggs, beans, and pastas. However, in the unprocessed group, the ingredients were fresher, with no additives or preservatives in the meals. Additionally, whole foods and unrefined ingredients were used (eggs and potatoes were prepared from scratch, for example).

    Replying to "I'm still a little torn on this. In order for the study to determine that the "processed" foods led to an average 500 calorie increase, they had to have an idea how many calories were being consumed, so some type of counting had to take place, even though it states they were instructed to eat as much as they like." (since I cant use bold to highlight it).

    I believe the people doing the eating didn't count, i.e., they weren't eating in a calorie-aware way, let alone an intentionally calorie-managing way.

    The researchers counted.

    That's what folks are getting at in saying this is about satiation, not necessarily processed-ness per se.

    Distinctions......elude me sometimes :D Thanks for the clarification :)
  • PhirrgusPhirrgus Posts: 1,904Member Member Posts: 1,904Member Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    Phirrgus wrote: »
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    But they did not eat the same amount of calories.

    I like the study too, and am not remotely surprised at the results. IMO, if not counting, one helpful strategy is to do more home cooking and eat more whole foods. But this does not mean that "processing" or "chemicals" and not calories are the source of weight gain.

    Disclaimer..sorry for all the bolds..for some reason my mobile device is being a pain with the quotes...
    I'm still a little torn on this. In order for the study to determine that the "processed" foods led to an average 500 calorie increase, they had to have an idea how many calories were being consumed, so some type of counting had to take place, even though it states they were instructed to eat as much as they like.

    "The participants' diets were precisely matched so that regardless of whether they were offered processed or unprocessed meals, they were given exactly the same amount of protein, fat, carbs, salt, and sugar to eat. They were instructed to eat as much food as they liked in 60-minute meal windows. They spent two weeks eating a processed diet, then switched and did two more weeks eating fresh meals."

    And while I'm not clear either on exactly what constitutes "processed" vs ultra processed etc...they do give a good sample of what they considered processed.

    "Participants consumed, on average, 500 more calories a day on the ultra-processed diet, when meals included foods like hot dogs, freezer pancakes, canned chili, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Those eating processed foods also gained about two pounds in those two weeks. Regardless of the person's weight or sex, they ate more carbs and fat on a processed-food diet."

    The difference between processed and unprocessed meals is subtle on the surface; both diet groups ate cereals, eggs, beans, and pastas. However, in the unprocessed group, the ingredients were fresher, with no additives or preservatives in the meals. Additionally, whole foods and unrefined ingredients were used (eggs and potatoes were prepared from scratch, for example).

    As Ann said, the study did not rely on the eaters self-reporting how much they ate (which is IMO typically unreliable), but told them to eat what they wanted. The researchers gave them enough food (controlled for total cals, fiber, protein, etc.) and let them eat however much they wanted of the larger portions. The researchers then counted what was eaten.

    As I quoted from the study above:

    "Meals were designed to be matched for presented calories, energy density, macronutrients, sugar, sodium, and fiber. Subjects were instructed to consume as much or as little as desired. Energy intake was greater during the ultra-processed diet (508±106 kcal/d; p=0.0001), with increased consumption of carbohydrate (280±54 kcal/d; p<0.0001) and fat (230±53 kcal/d; p=0.0004) but not protein (-2±12 kcal/d; p=0.85). Weight changes were highly correlated with energy intake (r=0.8, p<0.0001) with participants gaining 0.8±0.3 kg (p=0.01) during the ultra-processed diet and losing 1.1±0.3 kg (p=0.001) during the unprocessed diet."

    You can see the menus in the study itself.

    I have not had time to look at them again, but although I generally am unsurprised by the results and would have predicted them, I also think that the conclusion that it's "ultraprocessed" vs. whole alone maybe ignores some other distinction in the menus (like fiber coming from fiber added to lemonade, and not food, in the ultraprocessed menu, far fewer veg, stuff like that). I suspect that the menus could be manipulated to change the result, although if we are comparing to "what people eat in real life on a daily basis when picking whole vs. ultraprocessed" it probably does have some real world applicability, mainly for those who are not already mindful about diet and nutrition.

    Re modifying the menus, I mean it's possible to choose ultraprocessed options that have more inherent fiber, would include more veg (although it requires more work), and it's also possible to create whole food based menus that people would likely overeat to the same degree (I go to plenty of farm-to-table type restaurants where that's so).* However, I think in the real world, again, the menus chosen are probably more consistent with the differences (although somewhat extreme, as I think most people may eat a mix).

    In any case, I think "generally cooking from scratch and eating a good amount of whole foods, esp veg and good sources of fiber and protein" is common sense advice that may well lead to weight loss for someone not already doing that (I also think it can be an easy way to have a healthy diet and its my preferred way to eat). But when someone says the issue is "processing," I think that's an oversimplification, although that's not at all a criticism of the study, more some of the reporting.

    *Quick example of what was fed them. One lunch had the ultraprocessed people eat Beef ravioli (Chef Boyardee), Parmesan cheese (Roseli), White bread (Ottenberg), Margarine (Glenview Farms), Diet lemonade (Crystal Light) with NutriSource fiber, and Oatmeal raisin cookies. The whole food people ate Spinach salad with chicken breast, apple slices, bulgur (Bob’s Red Mill), sunflower seeds (Nature’s Promise) and grapes, Vinaigrette made with olive oil,fresh squeezed lemon juice, apple cider vinegar (Giant), ground mustard seed (McCormick), black pepper (Monarch) and salt (Monarch). I see some major differences beyond processing in those two meals (and not that the unprocessed was less palatable, as it sounds much tastier to me).

    That makes sense to me, thanks, although it does seem there's still a world of debate over exactly where the "How processed is this food?" lines are drawn.

    I do agree with you by the way - my taste buds enjoy the "ultra-processed" stuff, but the fresh cooked from scratch meals are ultimately more satisfying to me.

    I do have to admit (this is my stumbling block) I do still seem to get easily confused over those small distinctions often cited in studies like this...but this is how I learn I guess.
  • John5877John5877 Posts: 12Member Member Posts: 12Member Member
    ^ the study mentioned above is likely to give negative data that will be harder to get published or not get published in a more prestigious journal. This leads to future grants not getting funded and researchers can’t risk that.
  • psychod787psychod787 Posts: 2,427Member, Premium Member Posts: 2,427Member, Premium Member
    Carlos_421 wrote: »
    The article is deceptive in my opinion, especially in regards to the quote shown in the OP.
    The study provided NOTHING but "ultra-processed" foods to one group and NOTHING but fresher, more whole foods to the other.
    The article mentions that each group was given an equal amount of protein, fat and carbs but then later concedes that the ultra-processed group ate more fat and carbs than the other.

    What actually happened was they put the same amount of each macro on the table for each group but didn't control how much of each macro either group consumed.
    The ultra-processed group ate less protein and more fat/carbs which is easy to comprehend, considering the amount of protein in hot dogs and pb&j sandwiches is far less than in whole meats.

    All this shows is that "ultra-processed" foods tend to be:
    1) highly palatable
    2) calorie dense
    3) lower in protein than more whole foods
    4) less satiating than more whole foods

    This typically leads to overeating in those whose diet consists mainly (or entirely as in the case of this study) of "ultra-processed" foods.

    Thus, the claim that processed foods cause weight gain remains false. The link between processed foods and weight gain remains correlative as the actual cause of weight gain is overeating.

    I think a better study would have included these two groups, a third that was offered a mix of whole and processed foods, then two more that are fed similarly to the first two groups, but with actual consumption of calories controlled.

    Well... maybe not as misleading as it seem. While eating the ultra processed food did not DIRECTLY cause people to gain weight' it most likely led to them eating more. Which will cause an increase in fat and carbs. Lends thought to the protein leverage hypothesis. We know MOST hyperprocessed foods have less protein per gram than less refined do. Thus having to eat more to get the same satiety. Also... let's face it @JeromeBarry1 is right. Food scientist get billions in funding to find out what makes us tick. Far more than the NIH gets.
  • PhirrgusPhirrgus Posts: 1,904Member Member Posts: 1,904Member Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    This study suggests one strategy for controlling categories -- eat more nutrient dense, less calorie dense, more satiating foods, for the most part. Also, eat some vegetables, and foods that you tend to take longer to eat.

    Not mentioned by the study, I think it suggests another strategy -- choose appropriate servings for your size, and don't put more than that on your plate (or easily accessible). What happened here is that people needed to decide for themselves when they were ready to stop eating (or just eat until the hour ended). One thing I did when I decided to lose weight was making sure I was sensible with my serving sizes (and if I wanted more volume adding vegetables) and -- important for me -- not leaving out food for potential seconds. I would immediately put away leftovers and in my mind designate them for future dinners or lunch or whatever. Prior to that, my practice had been more to accidentally make far too much and then keep eating until I wanted to stop (sometimes I'd eat more than I wanted because "otherwise it will go to waste, because it's not enough for a full second meal).

    I did use logging to teach myself reasonable serving sizes, but if I'm mindful I mostly can do well not logging and just making sure reasonable amounts are on my plate, not excessive amounts.

    Sometimes I think people have unreasonable expectations (I'll just eat some ice cream from the pint and stop when I stop wanting to eat or I'll grab a bag of chips and eat a few) when just exercising common sense (take out the amount you want to eat and put the rest away) would add necessary structure. Also, thoughts like "I ate enough that I shouldn't really be hungry, I'll wait and then maybe have a couple clementines if I still want something."

    I don't disagree, but for discussions sake don't you think "sensible" and "reasonable" regarding servings can be highly subjective? For context - growing up, when we had food it was usually piled high and we ate every last bit. That was the norm. So "sensible" for me is something that had to be learned through another context, such as "what's a healthy meal size for a 180lb male?"

    Granted that's anecdotal front to back and sideways, but given that we know that experience and upbringing prior to becoming health and weight conscious has an impact, maybe something to consider here?
  • psychod787psychod787 Posts: 2,427Member, Premium Member Posts: 2,427Member, Premium Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    This study suggests one strategy for controlling categories -- eat more nutrient dense, less calorie dense, more satiating foods, for the most part. Also, eat some vegetables, and foods that you tend to take longer to eat.

    Not mentioned by the study, I think it suggests another strategy -- choose appropriate servings for your size, and don't put more than that on your plate (or easily accessible). What happened here is that people needed to decide for themselves when they were ready to stop eating (or just eat until the hour ended). One thing I did when I decided to lose weight was making sure I was sensible with my serving sizes (and if I wanted more volume adding vegetables) and -- important for me -- not leaving out food for potential seconds. I would immediately put away leftovers and in my mind designate them for future dinners or lunch or whatever. Prior to that, my practice had been more to accidentally make far too much and then keep eating until I wanted to stop (sometimes I'd eat more than I wanted because "otherwise it will go to waste, because it's not enough for a full second meal).

    I did use logging to teach myself reasonable serving sizes, but if I'm mindful I mostly can do well not logging and just making sure reasonable amounts are on my plate, not excessive amounts.

    Sometimes I think people have unreasonable expectations (I'll just eat some ice cream from the pint and stop when I stop wanting to eat or I'll grab a bag of chips and eat a few) when just exercising common sense (take out the amount you want to eat and put the rest away) would add necessary structure. Also, thoughts like "I ate enough that I shouldn't really be hungry, I'll wait and then maybe have a couple clementines if I still want something."

    Know what's *kittened* up... my cousin brought me a bag of fresh Georgia peaches. She's my little southern belle.. lol I had one... one turned to two... two turned to three.... I had to just put them away! People say you cant binge on fresh fruit... I can.... that's how i know my tastebuds have changed and I am way below my bf settling range. I mean, If I had eaten the whole bag of 8 peaches... that's like what 400 cals? Would not have done much for a 3400 tdee , its is all about self control... let the woo's begin... lol
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