A new study reveals that ultra-processed foods, the ones packed with sugars, fats, and other additives not typically used in home cooking, account for more than half of all calories in the American diet.
Even more alarming, these foods contribute nearly 90% of all the added sugars we consume.
What are Ultra-Processed Foods?
Ultra-processed foods aren’t just chips, cookies, or sodas. They include a broad range of items that have been significantly altered during their production process.
This includes things like chicken nuggets, instant noodles, packaged snacks, desserts, and even some breads.
These foods often contain additives like emulsifiers and flavorings designed to make them taste, look, or feel like ‘real foods’.
They’re often convenient and easy to prepare, but the downside is that they’re typically high in sugars, fats, and salt.
How Much Are We Eating?
In the study, researchers used data from a national survey that included over 9,000 people.
They found that ultra-processed foods made up just under 60% of the total calories consumed. What’s more, these foods contributed almost 90% of all the added sugars in the diet.
In fact, one out of every five calories in ultra-processed food came from added sugars. That’s a lot higher than the sugar content in other types of foods, including those that are processed or minimally processed.
The Health Impact
So, what does this mean for our health? A lot of leading health organizations, like the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association, have pointed out that eating too much-added sugar can lead to health problems.
These problems include weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay.
In the study, the researchers found that the more ultra-processed foods people ate, the more likely they were to exceed the recommended limit for added sugars.
Over 80% of the people who ate the most ultra-processed foods went over this limit.
In contrast, the people who ate the least amount of ultra-processed foods had an average daily added sugar intake that was below the maximum recommended limit.
What Can Be Done?
The researchers suggest that one way to reduce added sugar intake in the US is to cut back on ultra-processed foods. This could be an effective strategy to improve the nation’s health.
If you’re interested in nutrition, you might want to check out some other recent studies. For instance, researchers have found that vitamins D and K can help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease.
The ultra-processed foods study was published in the journal BMJ Open. The findings underscore the need for dietary changes to combat the high consumption of added sugars and ultra-processed foods in the US.
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