A study led by London’s Imperial College, and published in JAMA Paediatrics, has supported a fact that has been known for a long that if the ultra process is food is taken more in childhood, then in adulthood, weight issues will be there. The study in which data was taken on eating ultra-processed food by British children over several years. It was found that in a child’s diet, more than 60% of calories and more than 40% of the intake in grams on average comes from ultra-processed foods.
Eating habits of childhood could be passed on to adulthood, which increases the risk of developing several physical and mental health problems later on. In India, the market for sugary beverages and ultra-processed is expected to rise to 17 million by 2025. The only way to limit this, according to experts, would be to ensure food labels contain accurate information on fat, salt, and sugar content.
To eat a balanced and healthy diet, one needs to know what goes into their food. Unless one is directly eating milk from the cow or a plant, many foods that one is eating are processed through various methods such as drying, canning, heating, pasteurizing, or certain preservatives are added to make it ready to eat, palatable, and last longer. There is a vast difference between the food that is processed and the food that is ultra-processed.
Brazilian nutritional researcher Carlos Monteiro and his team at the Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, developed the concept of ultra-processed food. The team uses NOVA classification of food to categorize food into four types based on their purpose, extent, nature of food processing.
Unprocessed or minimal processed food – These are the edible parts of the animal, plant, or flower that are eaten. These include seeds, fruits that have not been processed, edible algae and fungi, egg, tap, and spring water. Minimally processed foods are whole foods, and to make them suitable for consumption, they are minimally altered—for example, packaged milk, fresh juice, oats, etc.
Processed foods – These foods are made when ingredients from group 2 are added to food items from group 1—for example, canned fruits in sugar syrup, simple cheese, freshly baked bread, etc. Here the food is processed to make them more palatable and increase their shelf lives.
Processed industrial ingredients – This group includes culinary ingredients obtained from nature or group 1, using processes such as drying, milling, refining, pressing, and grinding—for example, vegetable oil, sugar, butter, etc.
Ultra-processed foods – The unhealthiest of all. It is often convenient and cheap. These are made from ingredients primarily of exclusive industrial use—for example, carbonated soft drinks, cookies, pastries, etc.
Multiple health issues are related to ultra-process food, including diabetes, heart diseases, depression, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cardiovascular diseases.