Ultra-processed foods make up a large portion of many diets and have been linked to various health issues.
The big picture: Ultra-processed foods currently account for nearly 60% of what typical adults eat and 70% of what kids eat, including cookies, sodas, jarred sauces, cereals, packaged breads, and frozen meals.
* Overconsumption of ultra-processed foods has been linked to obesity, hypertension, breast and colorectal cancer, and premature death from all causes.
Behind the science: Researchers have found that it isn’t just salt, sugar, and fat that contribute to health issues, but likely the amount of processing these foods undergo.
* In a controlled trial, participants on an ultra-processed diet consumed about 500 calories more per day than when they were on an unprocessed diet, resulting in weight gain.
Moving forward: Researchers hope to determine what specifically makes ultra-processed foods unhealthy in order to promote better dietary choices and potentially re-engineer these foods to be healthier while maintaining convenience.
* Some ultra-processed foods, such as packaged whole grain breads and certain yogurts, can be healthy options despite their classification.
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