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5 consequences of consuming too much ultra-processed foods

5 consequences of consuming too much ultra-processed foods
Over the last few decades, the food industry has entered our homes to make our mealtime tasks easier. Lack of time, the fact that they are easy to make and that they are tasty, are the main reasons why we resort to this type of food, but what does the excess of ultra-processed foods mean for our health?

Consequences of excess ultra-processed foods

We can classify foods into:

  • Unprocessed or minimally processed foods: fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, legumes, seeds, cereals, eggs.
  • Processed foods that have been modified to last longer or taste better, usually with salt, oil, sugar, or fermentation. They include: yogurt, cheese, ham, homemade bread, canned fruits, vegetables and legumes, smoked or canned fish, beer and wine.
  • Ultra-processed foods have gone through industrial processes synthetically or using substances from other foods, and they often have long lists of ingredients on the label, including preservatives, sweeteners, or color and flavor enhancers. This group includes: processed meats such as sausages and burgers, breakfast cereals or cereal bars, sauces, instant soups, sugary soft drinks, chicken nuggets, cakes, chocolate, ice cream, cookies, mass-produced bread, many foods .

How does the consumption of ultra-processed foods affect health?

Most of these products have several of the following characteristics in their composition:

  • High calorie content: they are normally empty calories, that is, many calories and little amount of nutrients.
  • Hydrogenated or trans fats: these are fats generated by the food industry, mainly to make the product cheaper and make it more appetizing.
  • Sugar: these products usually have added sugar, which is not only present in pastries but is also found in sauces, meat products, etc.
  • Salt: Salt makes the product last longer, as well as making it more hyperpalatable (A hyperpalatable food is one in which the synergy between the components of the food, such as fat, sodium (salt), sugar and carbohydrates, makes it more tasty than it would be)
  • Refined flours and oils: refined flours and oils undergo an industrial process, in which vitamins and minerals are extracted.
  • Additives: such as preservatives, sweeteners, flavor enhancers, etc.

Consequences of consuming excessively ultra-processed foods.

1. Overweight and obesity

  • One of the main health problems caused by excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods is the increase in body fat, which leads to being overweight or obese.
  • According to the WHO, in recent years the number of cases of obesity and overweight has tripled. In 2016, 1.9 billion adults aged 18 were overweight, of which 650 million were obese. As if that were not enough, in 2016 there were 41 million children around the world who were obese or overweight.

2. Cardiovascular disease

  • Weight gain causes an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarction or stroke.
  • Furthermore, excessive consumption of salt present in ultra-processed foods increases the probability of suffering from cardiovascular diseases. The same happens with monosodium glutamate, an additive that enhances flavor. According to several studies, excessive intake of this promotes weight gain, oxidative stress, memory defects and epilepsy.

3. Diabetes Mellitus type 2

  • If we regularly consume ultra-processed foods, usually rich in sugar, we can become diabetic. The mechanism is explained because if we take, for example, about 200 grams of sugar daily, insulin is triggered and glucose cannot enter the cells. An alteration is created at the metabolic level that can translate into insulin resistance.

4. High cholesterol

  • Another consequence of excess ultra-processed foods would be that our blood cholesterol levels could rise, and not only from consuming the fat present in this type of products as is believed, but also from the sugar. Returning to the previous explanation, insulin resistance implies that the cell cannot open to it, therefore glucose begins to accumulate in the arteries.
  • The result would be: high blood glucose levels, as a consequence hypertension, increased triglycerides, decreased HDL cholesterol and increased LDL.
  • Sausages are a clear example of processed and ultra-processed foods that affect health when consumed in excess.

5. Cancer

  • The number of cancer cases related to diet is inversely proportional to the reduction in consumption of foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. The less healthy we eat, the more likely we are to develop cancer.

In conclusion

  • We see that all these diseases are related to each other and that their main causes are excess ultra-processed foods. If we add a sedentary lifestyle to this, the combination is dangerous.
  • It is important to inform ourselves about the nutritional characteristics of foods, as well as modify our unhealthy lifestyles. Ultra-processed foods are here to stay and we must learn to select them and consume them responsibly to avoid falling into excess.

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