The present and future health of minors is at risk. Be it attractive packaging, powerful sensory experience, strong advertising campaign or affordable price, Ultra-processed products hide the dangers of poor nutrition and the real risk of developing obesity and overweight.
The last people to press the alarm button were researchers from the Bellwitz Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBEL) in Catalonia, who have published a study in the journal. British Medical Journal in which they assure that 12% of the child population is already addicted to ultra-processed foods.
These food products have been subjected to a series of industrial processes in which ingredients such as saturated fats, sugars, salt, colors, preservatives and other additives are added. These foods are usually They have low nutritional value and are often high in empty calories, so they are closely linked to deadly silent epidemics like obesity.
source of empty calories
“Empty calories” are those that come from foods that provide energy, but that They contain limited or no nutritional value of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients essential for the body.
In short, they are calories that come from foods that provide little or no nutritional benefit.
Examples of foods with empty calories are sugary drinks, industrial pastries, snacks, fried foods, and fast foods.Alcohol and other products that are high in sugar, saturated fat and trans fat, but have low nutritional value.
Excessive consumption of foods with empty calories can contribute to weight gain and nutritional deficiencies, Since these do not provide the essential nutrients that the body needs to function properly.
These are health risks
Excessive consumption of ultra-processed products is linked to several health risks, Following are some of them.
low nutritional value
Ultra-processed foods are often They lack essential nutrients that the body needs to function properly, Like vitamins, minerals and fiber.
High in calories and low in satiety.
Despite its high calorie content, These foods may not be as satisfying as fresh, less processed foods. This may increase total calorie intake and contribute to the problem of obesity.
The risk of chronic diseases increases.
Regular consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with? increased risk of developing long-term conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity-related diseases.
Negative effects on heart health.
Many ultra-processed foods may contain the presence of saturated fat and trans fat. Contribute to increased cholesterol levels And the risk of cardiovascular diseases increases.
Frequent consumption of added sugars and other artificial ingredients May have negative effects on metabolism, Contributing to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Some ingredients in ultra-processed foods, such as sugars and fats, It can have addictive effects, leading to unhealthy consumption patterns And making it difficult to adopt a balanced diet.
How does addiction to ultra-processed foods arise?
Yes, we’ve seen it, there is scientific evidence that suggests a link between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and food addiction. Certain ingredients in these foods may have effects on the brain and its reward system.Similar to cases seen with addictive substances such as drugs, tobacco or alcohol.
These are some of the key points regarding the possible connection between ultra-processed foods and addiction.
Sugar, especially when added in large amounts to processed foods, can have effects on the brain, stimulating the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the reward system. This mechanism may contribute to compulsive consumption patterns.
fat and strong taste
Fats and other flavor enhancers present in ultra-processed foods Can create a strong sensory experience that stimulates desire And frequent consumption.
Food manufacturers often design products to be highly attractiveDelicious and satisfies the specific taste of the consumer. This may influence excessive consumption patterns And, potentially, into addictive behavior.
Some studies have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine brain responses to ultra-processed foods, and have found Similarities between brain activation associated with food intake and activity associated with drug intake.
Social Impact and Solutions
so, We must be aware of the addictive behavior associated with the consumption of this type of food.Especially in the child population, and remember that to maintain a healthy diet it is advisable to give preference to fresh and less processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat proteins.
The low prices of ultra-processed products and difficult (or expensive) access to fresh and safe food in some areas make the former the food base of the most deprived populations. Take an example: In Spain, obesity reaches 15.9% among schoolchildren from low-income families; Whereas in high income families it is 4.6%.
Parents’ educational level also influences the prevalence of childhood obesity: It is twice as high in families with low educational levels compared to families with high education.
For this reason, experts propose to initiate purposeful immediate measures Reduce the price of minimally processed foodsAs well as imposing taxes or limiting the marketing of ultra-processed foods.
Another measure that could be effective is the approval of rules to label the latter as addictive. This fact justifies it: except in Sub-Saharan Africa, Obesity-related diseases are one of the three leading causes of death worldwide.