Julia Belluz writing for Vox:
In two new papers published in the BMJ, the more ultraprocessed — or industrially manufactured — foods a person ate, the more likely they were to get sick and even die. In one study, they were more likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems. The other linked an ultraprocessed diet to a higher risk of death from all causes.
Those studies followed a first-of-its-kind randomized controlled trial, out of the National Institutes of Health: Researchers found people following an ultraprocessed diet ate about 500 more calories per day than those consuming minimally processed, whole foods.
Sure, potato chips, cookies, and hot dogs are chock-full of salt, sugar, fat, and calories. They can cause us to gain weight and put us at a higher risk of diseases such as diabetes and obesity. But why? What if there’s something unique about ultraprocessed foods that primes us to overeat and leads to bad health?
Ultraprocessed foods are created in factories. They’re pumped full of chemicals and other additives for color, flavor, texture, and shelf life. This processing generally increases the flavor and caloric density of the foods, while stripping away the fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. So these foods are distinct from whole foods (like apples and cucumbers) and processed foods (like vegetables pickled in brine, or canned fish in oil) that rely on only salt, sugar, and oil — rather than a range of complicated additives — to preserve them or make them tastier.