The Valentine’s day nutrition research published by the B.M.J may sound like a bit of a ‘no-brainer’ or perhaps that is just my opinionated view! Processed foods are so devoid of nutrients that if they constitute a percentage of the diet, it comes as no surprise to me that they will correspondingly increase the risk of cancer, and possibly any disease by a similar percentage. In actual fact, according to the study the risk factor of a diet consisting of 10% ultra processed foods gave a risk factor to develop cancer of greater than 10%. Meanwhile, the industry “trolls” Professor Tom Sanders funded by the aspartame manufacturer Nutrasweet and and Dr. Ian Johnson of the biotechnology funded Quadram Institute have been given opportunity to comment negatively against the study findings in this BBC article… although the study acknowledges already that when people are consuming the ultra processed group they often have other risk factors for poor health such as smoking.
The study separates foodstuffs into the four groups designed by the NOVA classification list which are:
- Unprocessed or minimally processed foods, e.g. unprocessed, edible parts of plants and animals
- Processed culinary ingredients, e.g. where the ingredients above are made into handmade dishes
- Processed foods, e.g. bottled or canned foods, cheeses, smoked meats etc.
- Ultra-processed food and drink products, e.g. crisps, margarine’s, breakfast cereals etc.
You can find a full classification of the NOVA groups here
An earlier piece of research published in January, was led by Professor Carlos Monteiro (based at University of Sao Paulo, Brazil), whose interview with the Guardian describes his great concern of the health risks associated with a processed diet and affirms that “Ultra processed foods are essentially new creations of the food industry with very low cost ingredients in a very attractive product.” I presume by that he means the pretty packaging, not the appearance of the “food”! This New Year published study also highlighted that the British population’s diet consists of just over 50% ultra processed foods, the highest consumption across a cohort of nineteen countries… as compared with Portugal at just 10% ultra processed foods!
In reality, I feel unconvinced that whilst these “ultra processed foods” contain substances that may originally have been unprocessed, I wonder by what definition we can continue to call them ‘food’? A dictionary definition of food is “any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth.” When “foods” are so laden with processed salt, sugars, damaged fats and additives that do the very reverse of nourish, perhaps a more appropriate title might be poison? Perhaps we should begin to force manufacturers to have to label these products as other than food.