What is ultra-processed food?

June 19, 2019

Not all food is created equal, and some is even more (ultra) processed than others, thus contributing to gut dysfunction. The purpose of ultra-processing food is to create branded, convenient (durable, ready to consume), attractive (hyper-palatable) and profitable (low-cost ingredients) food products.

Ultra-processed food is made from food-like substances and additives, with little intact natural food. These ingredients are not normally used in natural culinary preparations.

Additives include preservatives, antioxidants and stabilizers to reduce normal degradation and lengthen shelf life. Some additives enhance the sensory qualities of foods or disguise unpalatable aspects of the final product (dyes and other colors, color stabilizers, flavors, flavor enhancers, non-sugar sweeteners). Processing additives (such as carbonating, firming, bulking and anti-bulking, de-foaming, anti-caking and glazing agents, emulsifiers, sequestrants and humectants) increase gut permeability. Processing with heat extrusion can create de novo compounds, some of which are carcinogens. The preparation and milling of food into shelf-stable acellular materials increases rapidity of gut absorption, contributing to hepatic dysfunction.

Ultra-processed foods make up 57.9% of dietary intake and contribute 89.7% of the energy intake from added sugars. These empty-calorie foods contain minimal bioavailable essential nutrients, and displace more nutrient-dense foods, which leads to an overfed and yet undernourished population.

Consuming ultra-processed food leads to metainflammation through gut dysfunction. Metainflammation is the root cause of most diseases of Western civilization: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, autoimmune dysfunction, and chronic pain.