An interesting study came out that asked:
“Do ultra-processed foods change behavior?”
According to the International Food Information Council, ultra-processed food is defined as:
“Typically contain little or no whole foods. Durable, convenient, accessible, highly or ultra-palatable, often habit-forming. Typically not recognizable as versions of foods although may imitate the appearance, shape and sensory qualities of foods.”
(Little scary to see habit-forming as part of the description).
And the research on these Frankenfoods is scary.
Anyway, when it came to this small study by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers gathered a group of 20 subjects and housed them at a clinic so they could prepare every single meal for them and track exactly how much they ate.
Subjects were divided into two groups: One that was given an unprocessed menu and the other an ultra-processed menu. Both groups received three square meals and snacks in between. Both were instructed they could eat as much (or as little) as they desired.
(And even though one group was given ultra-processed food, they both were given a similar ratio of protein, fat and carbs.)
The ultra-processed group consumed on average 500 extra calories each day (causing body fat and weight-gain).
Here are a few thoughts:
Even though this was a small study, this was a very controlled study. The fact that they housed each person and measured what each person ate is impressive. Larger studies will need to be done to learn more — but the findings are interesting none the less.
Some will say ‘Of course they ate more calories processed foods taste better’. However, these sly researchers thought of this and surveyed subjects who rated both types of food as equally tasty and satisfying.
Something else in ultra-processed foods triggered more eating. Could it be the extra additives? Or excitotoxins (chemicals that overstimulate neurons in the brain)? Or preservatives?
But this is something to consider when you snack on these ultra-processed foods.
They may just be a little treat. They may only be a few hundred calories, but what’s that going to do for your hunger… appetite… and cravings later that day?
You’ll have to experiment for yourself and see.
And consider if it’s worth it or not.
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