Links: Processed Food and Disease

One of the other blogs I follow is the Angry Chef. I aspire to be as entertaining as that blog. But also to be seen as serious – which I think are mutually exclusive goals.

Recently posted was a two-parter about “Ultra-Processed Foods” and the dietary guidelines of Brazil and the World Health Organization.

Rise of the Ultra Foods, part 1 and part 2.

I encourage you to read them. But the short version is that the new nutrition guidelines of Brazil have a lot of positive characteristics about them. They encourage enjoying food, acknowledge the cultural and familial components of eating and meal times. These are good things. But they also go off on the concept of ultra-processed foods. Which is never defined. And the available evidence just doesn’t support the idea that UPF are inherently problematic

There exists this anti-chemical strain of though that modern processing of food is intrinsically bad. Because chemicals or something. That somehow the rise of lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes are because of the chemicals and not calories and poverty.

There is already an enormous body of evidence that calories consumed are the primary driver of increased lifestyle diseases. And that the biggest confounder in this type of research is the known effect of poverty on health outcomes as well as on food choices/availability.

All of the various safety studies of chemicals used in processing food fail to show any evidence of harm.

Why then should we consider the idea that the “real” problem is processed foods? Well, as The Angry Chef points out, at least one researcher is actually performing a study to address this question. As opposed to just blaming the chemicals. It’s a randomized controlled study comparing matched diets of processed and not processed foods. Here’s the study at ClinicalTrials.gov.

I await the results of this study. And will update my understanding of the topic based on the results if they show that I’ve been wrong so far.