The concept of ultra-processed food (UPF) was initially developed and the term coined by the Brazilian nutrition researcher Carlos Monteiro, with his team at the Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health (NUPENS) at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. They argue that “the issue is not food, nor nutrients, so much as processing,” and “from the point of view of human health, at present, the most salient division of food and drinks is in terms of their type, degree, and purpose of processing.”

Examples of UPF include:

Ultra-processed food is bad for our health! This message is clear and has been voiced so many times – not least by proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) – that most people should now understand it.

But how bad?

And what diseases does UPF promote?

How strong is the evidence?

I did a quick Medline search and was overwhelmed by the amount of research on this subject. In 2022 alone, there were more than 2000 publications! Here are the conclusions from just a few recent studies on the subject:

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a systematic review of the subject. I am merely trying to give a rough impression of the research that is emerging. A few thoughts seem nonetheless appropriate.

  1. The research on this subject is intense.
  2. Even though most studies disclose associations and not causal links, there is in my view no question that UPF aggravates many diseases.
  3. The findings of the current research are highly consistent and point to harm done to most organs.
  4. Even though this is a subject on which advocates of SCAM are exceedingly keen, none of the research I saw was conducted by SCAM researchers.
  5. The view of many SCAM proponents that conventional medicine does not care about nutrition is clearly not correct.
  6. Considering how unhealthy UPF is, there seems to be a lack of effective education and action aimed at preventing the harm UPF does to us.

19 Responses to Ultra-processed food should be avoided

  • So called “soft-drinks” contains a lot of acid. If you drink cola, your teeth might look horrible after a few years.

    • I saw a video short about how to clean rust off of tools: soak in coca-cola and add vinegar (if I remember correctly). That seems to be the only value that soft drinks have.

    • AIUI, the rust cleaning ability of Coca-Cola is due to its phosphoric acid contents. I don’t think that phosphoric acid is common in other soft drinks.

      If you really want to clean rust using phosphoric acid, get commercial phosphoric acid cleaners/”rust converters”. Don’t drink them 🙂

  • “…5. The view of many SCAM proponents that conventional medicine does not care about nutrition is clearly not correct.”

    So, you have not tried hospital food lately?

    • Well, I did a couple of years ago. It may have nutritionally adequate, in fact I think i was. However given taste and appearance I wonder if a dog would have been happy with it.

  • Now EE, this is a statement by you that I fully support!

    But not only is this faux food not being questioned, its going into hyper-drive. In the name of protecting the climate from carbon made by carbon-based life forms, they want us to eat insect-based food (although we may be allergic to chitin) and laboratory produced meat and milk, among other things.

    The whole climate scam (now there is a real scam) should be investigated from first principles. Not accepted as fact.
    I recommend the book Climate Change: The Great Deception, where Mitchell does just that.

    Quote: I began my own research into anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in 2007. At that time, I had over 30 years of experience in optics and spectroscopy, including new product and process development for adverse environments such as oil well logging, high energy laser systems and hypersonic combustion. I started with a simple question: how did an increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 change the surface temperature of the Earth? I did not find a satisfactory answer in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) discussions of radiative forcings, feedbacks and climate sensitivities.

    Therefore, I started my own analysis of time dependent, or dynamic surface energy transfer, and the calculation of surface temperatures from first principles. I realized early on that the problem with the climate models was the underlying assumptions used to simplify the energy transfer calculations. Those simplifications created AGW as a mathematical artifact in the model calculations. Physical reality has been abandoned in favor of mathematical simplicity. I have published several technical articles including two on “Dynamic Thermal Reservoirs” and a book entitled, “The Dynamic Greenhouse Effect and the Climate Average Paradox,” Ventura Photonics Monograph VPM 001. None of these publications have had any effect on the simplified ‘climate science’ used by the IPCC and the climate modelers. The proponents of the AGW hypothesis refuse to consider any scientific analysis that challenges the “consensus.”

    Mitchell Jr., Guy K . Global Warming: The Great Deception

    The answer is not the brave new future of engineered food, but going back to the agriculture first principles followed by Regnerative Agriculture which will save our soil and save our health with a healthier environment.

    • If you, ‘stan’, understood logic, mathematics, and science — from first principles — you wouldn’t have written the above.

      You wrote: “I recommend the book Climate Change: The Great Deception”, but went on to quote from the book Global Warming: The Great Deception.

      I’m sure that I’m not the only reader who is no longer surprised by your lack of core knowledge, or by your gallant wielding of unbridled ignorance.

      In philosophy and science, a first principle is a basic proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

      In mathematics, first principles are referred to as axioms or postulates. In physics and other sciences, theoretical work is said to be from first principles, or ab initio, if it starts directly at the level of established science and does not make assumptions such as empirical model and parameter fitting. "First principles thinking" consists of deriving things to their fundamental proven axioms in the given arena, before reasoning up by asking which ones are relevant to the question at hand, then cross referencing conclusions based on chosen axioms and making sure conclusions do not violate any fundamental laws. Physicists include counterintuitive concepts with reiteration.

      In a formal logical system, that is, a set of propositions that are consistent with one another, it is possible that some of the statements can be deduced from other statements. For example, in the syllogism, "All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; Socrates is mortal" the last claim can be deduced from the first two.

      A first principle is an axiom that cannot be deduced from any other within that system. The classic example is that of Euclid's Elements; its hundreds of geometric propositions can be deduced from a set of definitions, postulates, and common notions: all three types constitute first principles.

      • wow, Pete, did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed?
        Yeah, I guess you have never made any simple mistakes like misquoting a title. I bow down to you.
        I would say that Mitchell is using the term “first principles” exactly as you define it. But I will let you argue it with him.

        • ‘stan’ wrote:

          The whole climate scam (now there is a real scam) should be investigated from first principles. Not accepted as fact.
          I recommend the book Climate Change: The Great Deception, where Mitchell does just that.

          After I pointed out that ‘stan’ went on to quote from the book Global Warming: The Great Deception, he wrote:

          Yeah, I guess you have never made any simple mistakes like misquoting a title.

          Unlike ‘stan’, I never have, and never will, mistake global climate change for global warming, or vice versa. Such a mistake is not a simple mistake like misquoting a title; it is a blatant display of ineptitude combined with ignorance.

          I would say that Mitchell is using the term “first principles” exactly as you define it. But I will let you argue it with him.

          As I’ve stated on previous occasions, I think it is important to know how to differentiate genuinely knowledgeable persons from numpties, quacks, and woomeisters. I doubt that Mitchell published his books for the purpose of informing genuinely knowledgeable persons. The fact that ‘stan’ quotes from one of the books suggests that Mitchell published his books mainly, if not solely, for the purpose of making money from the latter group: those who don’t understand the science; and, perhaps especially, those who revel in anti‑science and those who simply revel in trolling.

          Regarding the topic of global climate change, the temperature effect of global warming in and of itself is almost irrelevant. Any changes in temperature are the result of, not the cause of, climate change. Therefore I’m not the slightest bit interested in reading or refuting the books of a self-appointed ‘analyst’.

          “If you need to invoke your academic pedigree or job title for people to believe what you say, then you need a better argument.”
          —Neil deGrasse Tyson

          Ipse dixit is a Latin phrase meaning “He himself said it.” It refers to what is basically an appeal to authority, with oneself as the authority. In other words, the perpetrator of an ipse‑dixitism makes an unfounded assertion and expects his word to be the final say.

          END of QUOTE

          A clue to the gargantuan category difference between the two terms global climate change and global warming is, perhaps, best garnered from an easy-to-understand dimensional analysis:

          1. the dimension of global warming is temperature.

          2. whereas the vast majority of the parameters of global climate change, such as ice sheet thickness, ice sheet extent, sea level, water vapour content of air, storm energy, Earth’s albedo, flora and fauna, all reside in dimensions other than temperature.

          But, ‘stan’ isn’t the slightest bit interested in the substance of my comments. He is, as usual, completely off‑topic, and trolling, yet delightfully amusing each and every time he ignores the first law of holes. 🤣

  • Is Functional Medicine a scam in your book? Because they have been discussing these issues forever. They may not be funding or doing the research (its a small, not well funded movement) but they are certainly using this research in practice, as are other alternative practitioners. Conventional doctors/scientists may be doing the research but it doesnt seem to have made much of a dent in the conventional practice of medicine.

    • Yes, FM is mostly a scam. It uses and mostly abuses testing for nonexistent problems and then prescribes–wait for it…..SUPPLEMENTS! All with no evidence.

      No-one, no one at all, is promoting junk food as a basic diet or even anything more than an occasional indulgence, but don’t confuse that with all the bonkers diet advice promoted by all the various and sundry SCAMS.

      FM is nothing more than a way for wayward doctors to relieve the worried well from the weight of their pocketbooks.

  • JP Sears on today’s government recommendations to a healthy diet.

    • Thank you for posting the link RG. As usual, links you post are very “informative” and “on point”.

      Moreover, I have always dreamed of getting dietary advise from a class clown. You helped fulfill my dream today! THANK YOU!

      JP Sears was born in Toledo, Ohio, and raised in Bowling Green, Ohio.[6] According to Sears, he was a class clown in his youth .[7] He attended Bowling Green State University, but withdrew after several months to begin studying holistic culture at the Ohio life coaching school Journeys of Wisdom.[6]

      • lol, you completely missed the message, congratulations. The humor is for laughs.

        Why don’t you at least attempt to refute the message. You are the clown.

        • Why don’t you at least attempt to refute the message.

          “Come! wrestle with me!” says the pig standing enticingly in the middle of a mud puddle.

      • This just in!
        “…Pfreedom may not be right for you if you are a socialist, communist, far left Democrat or other form of entitled degenerate. Common side effects of Pfreedom include self-responsibility, doing hard work, critical thinking…”

        • OB,

          You forgot to add bullsh!ttery, d0uchebaggery, racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia etc. to the list of common side effects of Pfreedom. These symptoms tend to have an outsized effect on those who consider themselves to be on the right of political spectrum. Fear not, these symptoms can be easily be treated with a single dose of a homeopathic remedy called excrementum tauri.

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