How unhealthy are ultra-processed foods? – World

How unhealthy are ultra-processed foods? – World

Ultra-processed foods are commonly portrayed as a modern health scourge: a threat lurking on the shelves of every supermarket linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer and early death.

Researchers warning of their dangers have called for taxation and even bans of products which make up a huge proportion of the food eaten worldwide.

However some nutrition experts have started to push back against such all-encompassing claims, saying the definition can be vague. They say more research is needed and that some ultra-processed foods, or UPFs, can actually be healthy.

The concept was first introduced in 2009 by Carlos Monteiro, a nutrition and health researcher at Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo.

His NOVA classification system for UPFs was unusual in nutrition because it ignored the level of nutrients such as fat, salt, sugar and carbohydrates in food.

Instead, it splits food into four groups, ranked by the level of processing involved in their creation. Everything in the fourth group is considered ultra-processed.

Monteiro said that UPFs “aren’t exactly foods”.

“They’re formulations of substances derived from foods,” he told AFP.

“They contain little or no whole foods and are typically enhanced with colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers, and other cosmetic additives to make them palatable.” Examples include crisps, ice cream, soft drinks and frozen pizza. But items not traditionally considered junk food are also included, such as non-dairy milks, baby formula and supermarket bread.

According to the NOVA scale, nearly 60 per cent of the calories eaten in the United States and UK are from UPFs.