What is a processed food?
A processed food is a food that has been modified during its preparation to make it more convenient, more stable or more tasty.
The term “processed foods” is often a source of confusion, since the majority of foods undergo processing in one form or another.
Mechanical processing — like grinding beef, heating vegetables, or pasteurizing food — doesn’t necessarily make food unhealthy. If processing does not add chemicals or ingredients, it does not tend to diminish the sanitary quality of the food.
Nevertheless, a distinction should be made between the notions of mechanical transformation and chemical transformation.
Chemically processed foods often contain only refined ingredients and artificial substances, with low nutritional value. They tend to have added flavoring agents, colorings and chemical sweeteners.
Here are some examples of ultra-processed foods:
- Frozen or prepared meals.
- Wrapped breads.
- Processed cheese products.
- Sweets and ice cream.
- Instant noodles and soups.
- Reconstituted meats, such as sausages, nuggets, fish sticks and processed ham.
- Sodas and other sugary drinks.
Is food processing harmful to health?
Ultra-processed foods typically contain ingredients that can be harmful if eaten in excess, such as saturated fat, added sugar, and salt. These foods also contain less dietary fiber and fewer vitamins than whole foods.
A large study, involving more than 100,000 adults, found that eating 10% more ultra-processed foods was associated with a more than 10% increased risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disorders.
The researchers came to this conclusion after taking into account the consumption of saturated fat, sodium, sugar and fiber.
Another similar study, involving nearly 20,000 adults, found that consuming more than 4 servings of processed foods daily was linked to an increased risk of all-cause mortality. For each additional serving, the risk increased by 18%.
Is it true that ultra-processed products could cause Alzheimer’s?
Many people think that Alzheimer’s disease is inevitable. Something that comes with age or bad genes. But this is not true. What worsens the severity of our mental health has a closer connection to what we put into our bodies through our lifestyle and dietary choices.
Extensive studies, like this one from the BMJ, have already linked the consumption of ultra-processed foods to an overall higher risk of cancer. A rate of 10% of the proportion of processed foods being associated with a strong increase in the overall risk and the risk of breast cancer. The same type of observation applies to Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists previously thought that Alzheimer’s disease was largely genetic. But in fact, only about one percent of the population develops the disease due to genetic mutations. The rest, like other illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, stem primarily from behavioral and lifestyle factors. In fact, researchers believe that a third of all Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented by improving lifestyle. Eating better is one way to do this, and it involves cutting out processed foods as much as possible.
What about Parkinson’s disease? Are ultra-processed foods to blame?
Some studies suggest that the “Western” diet may be linked to the severity of symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This type of diet is high in processed foods.
A study suggests that several of these products, including canned goods and sodas, may be associated with “more rapid progression of Parkinson’s disease”.
Moreover, the researcher behind another study points out that the consumption of a lot of processed foods “contributes to increased intestinal permeability and dysbiosis due to an overgrowth of gram-negative bacteria. “.
Symptoms such as difficulty swallowing and problems with speech and smell are common in Parkinson’s disease. Since processed foods may be linked to the severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, people with the disease should avoid them.
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