In today’s fast-paced world, convenience often takes precedence over nutritional value. We find ourselves increasingly reliant on processed and packaged foods, which have become a staple in our modern diets. However, there is a specific category of convenience foods that deserves heightened attention due to their massive impact as the single largest root cause of life-threatening diseases and obesity. These junk foods are known as ultra-processed foods and have been linked to various conditions such as diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. Common cravings today include cookies, sweets, fizzy drinks, and crisps. However, the problem with these products is that they are all ultra-processed. This means that before they end up on a supermarket shelf, they go through numerous processes including the addition of sugar, salt, fat, and other artificial ingredients. Put simply these ingredients are wreaking havoc on your diet and your body!
Understanding Junk Foods:
Ultra-processed foods are defined as industrially manufactured products that contain a multitude of ingredients, many of which are artificial additives, preservatives and emulsifiers. These foods are typically low in nutritional value, high in refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and salt, and are laden with chemical flavour enhancers and colourants. Examples of ultra-processed foods include sugary cereals, packaged snacks, soft drinks, frozen dinners, and fast-food meals. The extensive processing these foods undergo leads to a loss of essential nutrients and an increase in unhealthy components, making them a cause for concern.
The Prevalence of Ultra-Processed Foods:
In recent decades, there has been a huge rise in the consumption of ultra-processed foods worldwide. Here in the UK, more than 50% of our calories (energy) come from junk foods, and if that wasn’t bad enough, the percentage is even higher (over 70%) in teenagers. Just think about it: Our growing teenagers need maximum nutrition NOT maximum calories but that’s the precise opposite of what they consume. This stores up endless health problems in later life while destroying their mental health and their ability to concentrate as the critical phase of their education.
This generational shift can be attributed to various factors, including urbanisation, increased affordability, aggressive marketing, and changes in lifestyle and eating habits. Convenience and accessibility play a major role, as ultra-processed foods are often readily available, require minimal preparation, and appeal to our taste buds through their addictive flavour profiles. As a direct result, it is making each generation more and more “food-faddy” with less of the nutritious real foods being consumed. These fake foods are the single major cause of our declining health over the past 50 years. Ultra-processed foods don’t give us quality fuel for our bodies. Not only that, but the bugs in our gut consume the exact same foods we do. So, by shovelling in takeaways and processed foods, we are limiting our chances of fighting off infections.
Watch our various podcasts with Graham Phillips and star guests where we talk about topics such as ultra-processed foods, our diets and the impact they may have on our health: https://bit.ly/3PfN3T1.
The Link to Diabetes:
One of the most alarming consequences of excessive ultra-processed food consumption is the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A diet high in ultra-processed foods is associated with weight gain, obesity, and insulin resistance, all of which are key factors in the development of this chronic metabolic disorder. The excessive intake of added sugars, refined grains, and unhealthy fats in ultra-processed foods wreaks havoc on our blood sugar levels and contributes to the onset of insulin resistance, ultimately leading to type 2 diabetes. we unwittingly pass our health problems to our kids. For example, if a pregnant woman develops gestational diabetes, her children will have a higher disposition towards developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Impact on Heart Health:
Ultra-processed foods also pose a grave threat to cardiovascular health. These foods are often laden with trans fats, saturated fats, and excessive amounts of sodium, all of which are detrimental to the cardiovascular system. Consumption of such foods can lead to high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and inflammation, all of which increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, the lack of dietary fibre in ultra-processed foods further exacerbates these risks.
Inflammatory Processes and Chronic Diseases:
The consumption of ultra-processed foods has been linked to the promotion of chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation plays a crucial role in the development of numerous diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The high levels of added sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives in ultra-processed foods trigger an inflammatory response, disrupting the body’s natural balance and contributing to the progression of these life-threatening conditions.
TV’s Dr Chris Van Tullekan investigated what effect a diet high in ultra-processed foods had on him by increasing his usual intake of 30% ultra-processed foods to 80% for four weeks. The results are shocking and even surprised the scientist he is working with. Chris gained almost 7kg in four weeks and moved from a healthy weight to overweight. If the weight gain had continued at the same rate for 6 months, he would have gained an incredible 6 (yes six!) stones.
As if this was not enough, his brain scan showed the reward centres of his brain had linked with areas that drive automatic behaviour. This is the same effect as taking addictive substances and shows that consuming ultra-processed foods rapidly becomes addictive.
Dr Van Tullekan recommends we avoid ultra-processed foods …. why expose our bodies to unnecessary health risks? You can read the full article here: What happened when I ate ultra-processed food for a month – BBC Food
Not only this, you can watch this six-minute video of Dr Van Tullekan views on ultra-processed foods: https://www.channel4.com/news/this-is-an-emergency-dr-chris-van-tulleken-on-why-ultra-processed-food-fuels-obesity-tooth-decay-and-illness
Latest Panorama episode on ultra-processed foods and the link to diabetes and other health conditions: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001mp67
Breaking Free from Ultra-Processed Foods:
Reducing the consumption of ultra-processed foods is essential for safeguarding our health. Here are some practical steps to help break free from their grip:
- Opt for whole, unprocessed foods: Focus on incorporating fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your diet. These foods are rich in essential nutrients and provide the foundation for a balanced and nourishing eating plan.
- Cook at home: Preparing meals at home gives you control over the ingredients and cooking methods used. It allows you to prioritize wholesome, unprocessed ingredients and experiment with flavourful, nutritious recipes.
- Read food labels: Carefully read the ingredient list and nutritional information when purchasing packaged foods. Avoid products with a long list of artificial additives, added sugars, unhealthy fats, and excessive sodium.
- Plan meals and snacks ahead: By planning your meals and snacks in advance, you can ensure that healthier options are readily available, reducing the temptation to reach for ultra-processed alternatives.
What can ProLongevity do:
Ultra-processed foods have become ingrained in our modern dietary landscape, but their impact on our health cannot be ignored. The excessive consumption of these foods is the single major cause that has been linked to life-threatening health issues such as diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes.
By understanding the composition of ultra-processed foods and their far-reaching implications, we can make informed choices and take steps towards adopting a healthier, whole-food-based diet. Prioritizing fresh, unprocessed ingredients and cooking at home can empower us to reclaim control over our health and pave the way for a brighter, disease-free future.
ProLongevity creates a nutrition and exercise plan that is uniquely tailored to your personal biology. This process of ‘Precision Nutrition’ can tackle the root cause of your ED and many other health problems. In just 8 weeks, we’ll guide you to a healthier more sustainable lifestyle with regular 1-2-1 coaching from qualified health professionals.
Our goal goes much beyond treating diseases. We aim to help you Live Healthy for Longer. What value would you place having an extra 10 years of vital, healthy life? You can book your free 15-minute consultation with our founder!