Understanding how ultra-processed food impacts our health is a challenging task. Indeed, it is always tricky for researchers to separate one piece of a whole diet and infer the specific impact on the body. Only time will tell the full effect of industrial processing on the health of our population.
However, one clear side effect of ultra-processed food is the significant contribution it makes to overall sugar consumption. While making up 60% of our diet, these types of foods are responsible for 90% of the added sugar we eat. (6)
Also, consumption of too many added sugars is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. (7)
Ultra-processed foods are also known to be moderately addictive. This is by design. In fact, the sugar, salt, and fat content are higher in ultra-processed food, and artificial flavors are added to boost the taste sensation. As a result, people who eat diets high in ultra-processed foods consume about 500 extra calories per day. (8) The extra calories contribute to weight gain and obesity.
Eating a diet high in ultra-processed foods is also linked to an increased risk of mortality. Furthermore, four servings a day of processed food was associated with a 62% increase in mortality. (9) Every serving above four added an additional 18% risk.
Ultra-processed foods were not created with health in mind. And their consumption has negative health consequences.