Eating too much packaged food might harm your gut

Credit: Unsplash+

Scientists at McMaster University have shared some important news for all of us who often reach for a quick snack or a ready-made meal.

They’ve found out that eating a lot of ultra-processed foods, like sodas, sweets, chips, and ready meals, might be linked to a certain kind of gut problem called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Let’s dive a little deeper into what all this means, and why it matters.

Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term used for disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract.

Types of IBD include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms related to IBD can be pretty tough, involving stomach pain, fatigue, and severe diarrhea, and can even lead to life-threatening complications.

So, how did the scientists go about studying this? They looked at the eating habits and health of over 116,000 adults from 21 countries and kept an eye on them for an average of 10 years. And what they found was pretty interesting!

The Surprising Findings: Junk Food and Your Gut

Now, you may think, why exactly is this interesting? It turns out that the folks who ate more than five servings of these ultra-processed foods each day were 82% more likely to develop IBD than those who ate less than one serving.

Even those who ate between 1 and 4 servings had a 67% higher risk! On the other hand, those who stuck to eating unprocessed foods like fruits, veggies, meats, and legumes didn’t show the same risks.

But what exactly is meant by ultra-processed foods? Essentially, these are foods that are not in their original, fresh form anymore.

They’ve been altered in some way, through salting, sugaring, baking, or being combined with other foods and additives, often to extend their shelf life or make them tastier. Think chips, sugary drinks, sweet treats, and canned foods.

The relationship between these convenience foods and our health has been a hot topic for a while. You might have heard before that they’re often linked to conditions like obesity or heart problems because they usually have lots of sugar, fat, and salt.

However, this new finding about a link to IBD adds another layer to the discussion, highlighting that what we eat does not only affect our outward appearance but also our internal systems.

Going Forward: What This Means for Our Plates

Now, the study doesn’t say that eating a candy bar will directly cause IBD, but it does highlight an important link between our overall diet and our risk of developing it.

And that’s especially key because, over the years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of IBD cases worldwide.

In fact, a report by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation notes that IBD affects an estimated 3 million adults in the United States alone. Moreover, what was once considered a rare disease in children has witnessed a steady uptick in the past few decades.

So, where do we go from here? Although the scientists have provided a significant insight, they also say that more research is needed to fully understand why these foods might be impacting our guts in this way.

But in the meantime, what we can take away from this is the importance of being mindful of our diets. Maybe it’s worth considering swapping out a few processed items for some fresh alternatives where we can.

Also, remember that it’s not just our physical health that is impacted by diet. There is a growing body of research illustrating a connection between what we eat and how we feel mentally too, a concept known as the “gut-brain axis.”

So, by taking care of our tummies, we might also be taking care of our minds.

Ultimately, this study brings home the message that maintaining a balance in our diet, incorporating fresh, unprocessed foods alongside our convenience treats, may offer a pathway to better gut health and overall wellbeing.

Although this rewrite makes the content more digestible for a general audience and brings in more context and background information, it is still challenging to thoroughly explore the topic while keeping the text easy and light, especially within a constraint of 600 words.

But in essence, the focus is on striking a balance – ensuring people understand the potential risks of ultra-processed foods while also appreciating the broad and intricate web of dietary impacts on our health.

Follow us on Twitter for more articles about this topic.

Copyright © 2023 Scientific Diet. All rights reserved.