Processed foods contribute to obesity |

Processed foods contribute to obesity

I’m working on a book about weight loss. In my research I have discovered many factors that contribute to the American obesity epidemic. However, to bolster my views, I felt I needed to research even more. Poking through the international and college databases such as EBSCO, I learned about some interesting research done in Brazil that in no uncertain terms demonstrates the big contribution that processed foods make to obesity. Let me give you some details:

For the study, food was classified into three groups according to the nature and extent of the industrial processing used in its manufacture.

The first group was fresh or minimally processed foods, such as grains, cereals, roots, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seed, meats, fish, poultry and eggs, milk and natural yogurt.

The second group included processed ingredients that we use to prepare food at home, which generally are extracted from whole foods. Examples are flours and starches, oils and sugars and salt.

The third group of foods were two kinds of ready-to-consume products:

A. Processed products made from foods with the addition of substances such as salt, sugar or oil and the use of processes such as smoking or curing. Examples include pickled, canned or bottled vegetables and legumes; fruit preserved with sugar; canned fish preserved in oil or salted and smoked; salted and smoked meats and cheese.

B. Ultra-processed foods are those formulated predominantly or entirely from industrial ingredients that typically contain little or no whole foods. They often have preservatives and cosmetic or other additives and may also contain synthetic vitamins and added minerals. Examples include cake mixes, energy bars, instant packaged soups and noodles; many types of sweetened breads, cakes, biscuits, pastries and desserts; potato or corn chips and other types of sweet, fatty or salty snack products; sugared milk and fruit drinks, soft drinks and energy drinks; preprepared meats, fish, vegetable or cheese dishes, pizza and pasta dishes, burgers, French fries, poultry and fish nuggets or sticks; bread and other cereal products; sausage, hot dogs, and other products made with scraps or remnants of meat; preserved chocolates, cookies, biscuits, candies; and margarines. Also included are canned or dehydrated soups and infant formulas, and baby products.

The average daily calorie intake was 1,581, but as people increased their processed and ultra-processed food consumption from 15 percent to 40 percent of their diet, their excess weight and obesity also increased from 34.1 percent to 43.9 percent.

Ultra-processed foods dominate food supplies of many developed countries, and production and consumption of these products is now rapidly increasing in middle income countries and settings. The reality is that these foods have become widely distributed and are in the reach of almost everyone. They are tempting for two reasons: they are cheap and tasty. In addition, they are convenient and “save” people time. But there is nothing good about them in the long run, and they don’t “save” anything. They ruin health and in the end take quality time away from those foolish enough to eat them.

Of course I admit that processed food is only one factor of obesity; other factors include a sedentary lifestyle, overeating, lack of exercise, some medications and stress. When people start acknowledging all these factors and rethink their lifestyles, magic and transformation happen. The result is a healthier body and lifestyle.

So there you have it. Another reason why you should do your best to cook at home, buy whole, fresh foods, and organic foods and stop consuming any processed food that negatively affects your health.

If you would like to know more about this study, see Canella, Daniela Silva, et al. “Ultra-Processed Food Products and Obesity in Brazilian Households (2008–2009).” Plos ONE 9.3 (2014): 1-6. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 May 2014.

Sandro Torres is a fitness professional at and owner of Custom Body Fitness in Carbondale. His column appears on the second Tuesday of the month in Body & More.

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