Ultra-processed food

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Mon Apr 08, 2024 9:28 pm

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by bob sterman » Wed Apr 10, 2024 9:42 am

In general I think the NOVA classification system (https://www.fao.org/3/ca5644en/ca5644en.pdf) is extremely helpful - i.e. distinguishing between minimally / traditionally processed foods and ultra-processed foods (processed using industrial techniques).

However, I think it can lead people to disregard a couple of important points...

Traditional food processing methods can sometimes produce nutritionally unbalanced foods - and even produce harmful or toxic substances (e.g. carcingogens or neurotoxins).

Conversely...

Industrial food processing techniques can sometimes produce foods that are nutritionally balanced and innocuous from a health point of view.

The fact that traditional methods can produce nutritionally unbalanced foods is noted in the NOVA system. However, concern about this is dismissed - with the suggestion that such foods are traditionally used only sparingly.

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by JQH » Wed Apr 10, 2024 1:03 pm

Is bread classified as an ultra-processed food?

After all, a loaf of bread bears little resemblance to a pile of wheat grains.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Wed Apr 10, 2024 1:41 pm

shpalman wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2024 9:28 pm
Saving this for later
The harsh reality of ultraprocessed food
This is actually quite interesting but the tldr for me is mainly "for some reason you eat more of it". There's maybe also an effect of food tasting one way but nutritionally being another, for example artificial sweeteners not being sugar, meat flavours not being protein, some fatty textures actually being carbohydrates, etc. but there isn't an understood mechanism for why that might be bad.

There are also some unhelpful points about the behaviour of the food industry as if they are unique and evil in wanting to make money or it's their fault that so much of the surface of the earth is given over to feeding humans.

But he does try to make a distinction between the kind of processing which humans have always done to their food, and the kind of thing which is being done more recently. And maybe there are artisanal foods which would count as ultraprocessed but they maybe wouldn't have traditionally been the bulk of a person's daily calories.

Anyway, don't @ me about anything I've just written unless you've watched it.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by IvanV » Wed Apr 10, 2024 1:54 pm

JQH wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2024 1:03 pm
Is bread classified as an ultra-processed food?

After all, a loaf of bread bears little resemblance to a pile of wheat grains.
Grinding grains into flour and cooking with it is processing, but not necessarily ultraprocessing. It is a practice of humans for thousands of years.

We had this discussion, so here is a summary, and some things I learned since. In the UK, most bread is ultra-processed, probably about 90%. Most of this uses the Chorleywood Baking Process, which is considered ultra-processing primarily because it uses powerful machinery to manipulate the dough creating effects on the dough structure that cannot occur with traditional processing methods - it's a kind of mechanical breaking-down of the constituents of the flour, which makes the nutrients (eg carbs) more available. The remaining bread considered ultraprocessed uses hybrid CBP/trad methods. CBP enables fluffy bread to be made quickly - with short ferment times - and with flours of lower strength, as the British climate is not good for growing high strength flour. Typically a range of additives not found in the domestic kitchen are used to assist this, including a higher salt content, although this can be avoided: there are trade-offs.

A sourdough loaf is usually not ultra-processed. But there is "sourfaux" bread which uses the heavy processing while raising with sourdough culture, and other breads which are partly ultra-processed. Yeasted bread doesn't have to be ultra-processed either, and wasn't before the CBP came in around 70 years ago. In some other countries, sourdough bread remains common, and it is possible to mass-produce sourdough bread without ultra-processing. Britain largely lost its sourdough tradition quite early, and, for example, cookery writer Eliza Acton (1799-1859), who had come across some from Germany, thought it some kind of dubious foreign stuff.

Factories mass producing sourdough do now exist again in Britain, which has emerged literally in the last 20 years or so. As it uses quite different machinery and methods from the CBP, it is not something other large scale bakeries can straightforwardly do without extensive re-equipping and retraining of staff.

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by dyqik » Wed Apr 10, 2024 1:55 pm

You can also make "sourdough" by adding sourdough flavor powder to bread.

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by IvanV » Wed Apr 10, 2024 2:28 pm

dyqik wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2024 1:55 pm
You can also make "sourdough" by adding sourdough flavor powder to bread.
I am horrified to learn you are correct, and manufacturers sell such powder to make "artisan-style baked products". I suppose that is a euphemism for "not actually sourdough bread". That would be even more "sourfaux" than I thought existed.

It reminds my of my attempts to buy gochujang, the Korean fermented chilli paste. I knew I could buy authentic gochujang in an Asian shop in central London, but the smallest pack was 500g and seemed rather more than I could use in a reasonable time. I then found a small jar in Tesco, only to get it home and discover it was fake, using a mix roughly along the lines that some recipes suggest when you can't get the real stuff. My own imitation mix is of better quality. I then found some in Waitrose, only to look more carefully at the label this time, and discover it was even more a fake than the Tesco stuff. At least the Tesco stuff had, on reflection, a bit more weasel wording on the label that might suggest it wasn't real.

I have now bought a 500g pack of the real stuff. I saw a contestant on Masterchef on TV using exactly the same packet. I understand why nearly all "wasabi" is fake wasabi, as it is very difficult to sell the source the stuff, very expensive, very short shelf-life, etc. But gochujang is cheap and stable enough you wonder why the supermarkets went to the trouble of faking it.

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Thu Apr 11, 2024 5:41 am

Another Chris van Tulleken video, which is shorter.

I still think a major issue is the general inability of people to accurately self-report their calorie intake.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:03 pm

this interview is longer

A couple of interesting things which come up are that poverty is a major part of the problem, and the UK is just so f.cked and I'm glad I don't live there anymore.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by IvanV » Fri Apr 12, 2024 8:37 am

shpalman wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:03 pm
...and the UK is just so f.cked and I'm glad I don't live there anymore.
OT: And Italy isn't? National level statistics make Italy look like a worse basket-case than the UK. But the mystery of Italy is that some parts of it do very well, probably including where you live. I've been looking at how much spending is directed locally (ie not by the national government) and it is 29%. Which is a lot more than Britain, but fairly typical by European standards. But the diversity of outcome in Italy is large by European standards. The US which also has large diversity of outcome, there about 54% of spending is local, ie not federal.

Maybe if you are interested in discussing this, we should start a new topic.

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by tenchboy » Fri Apr 12, 2024 10:14 am

IvanV wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2024 2:28 pm
dyqik wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2024 1:55 pm
You can also make "sourdough" by adding sourdough flavor powder to bread.
I am horrified to learn you are correct, and manufacturers sell such powder to make "artisan-style baked products". I suppose that is a euphemism for "not actually sourdough bread". That would be even more "sourfaux" than I thought existed.

It reminds my of my attempts to buy gochujang, the Korean fermented chilli paste. I knew I could buy authentic gochujang in an Asian shop in central London, but the smallest pack was 500g and seemed rather more than I could use in a reasonable time. I then found a small jar in Tesco, only to get it home and discover it was fake, using a mix roughly along the lines that some recipes suggest when you can't get the real stuff. My own imitation mix is of better quality. I then found some in Waitrose, only to look more carefully at the label this time, and discover it was even more a fake than the Tesco stuff. At least the Tesco stuff had, on reflection, a bit more weasel wording on the label that might suggest it wasn't real.

I have now bought a 500g pack of the real stuff. I saw a contestant on Masterchef on TV using exactly the same packet. I understand why nearly all "wasabi" is fake wasabi, as it is very difficult to sell the source the stuff, very expensive, very short shelf-life, etc. But gochujang is cheap and stable enough you wonder why the supermarkets went to the trouble of faking it.
To which, add: 'pickled onions' that are not actually pickled onions but onions swimming around in some pickle flavoured piss: the whole point of pickling the onions was to preserve them, so that they would last; the giveaway now (besides their tasting of piss and lack of texture) is the short use-by date. And ginger beer which has never been near a ginger root mix thing in it's life and is a beautifully textured and completely different drink from the sugary piss flavoured lemonade that is sold as ginger beer today.
I remembered that I'd nearly run out of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce to put in m'oxtail soup when I was doing the groceries last night so went to pick up a replacement but lo: the shelf was bare; so I picked up a Tesco Worcester sauce (note no 'shire'): maybe I'll get back to you on that.
The food manufacturers are having a laugh: they are churning out crap & gunge and calling it after well known food items whilst making huge profits at the nation's expense and leaving the NHS to deal with the consequences. Put them up there with the Water Companies that say we don't have a right to clean water.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by IvanV » Fri Apr 12, 2024 11:22 am

tenchboy wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2024 10:14 am
To which, add: 'pickled onions' that are not actually pickled onions but onions swimming around in some pickle flavoured piss...

... I picked up a Tesco Worcester sauce (note no 'shire')
And the "vinegar" you get in most chip shops is not actually vinegar, such that they aren't even allowed to call it that when it is traded. It is legally known as non-brewed condiment. It is made by mixing acetic acid, water, flavourings and colourings. Apparently the typical chip shop customer is so used to it that they would typically reject real vinegar in favour of it.

Fortunately doesn't bother me as I can't abide vinegar, real or fake, on my chips. But I think the stuff is probably also used for many commercial salad dressings, etc. And maybe for pickled onions too. Probably rather different from the whole pickled onions that you are talking about, which are traditionally matured for a month or two, but you can pickle sliced onions in as little as 20 mins. We regularly do this. Just pour some vinegar over your sliced onions - red is prettier.

Worcestershire Sauce was invented by Lea & Perrins. But their attempt to assert the name was their trademark failed in a court case in 1876. So anyone can use that name. But Worcester Sauce is a common alternative name and not necessarily a weasel wording for a fake product. Though we all do well to look carefully at ingredient lists in such cases. It is well known in the Czech Rep as Worcesterská omáčka, would you believe.

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Fri Apr 12, 2024 12:04 pm

IvanV wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2024 8:37 am
shpalman wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:03 pm
...and the UK is just so f.cked and I'm glad I don't live there anymore.
OT: And Italy isn't?
No.

About 11.4% of the Italian population has obesity but you can see how Lazio (with Rome in it) and then the better-off northern regions do better than the poorer southern regions. The distribution by age shows it being about 12-14% in the age range from 45 to 64.

About 30% of the UK population in that age range has obesity.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by IvanV » Fri Apr 12, 2024 1:23 pm

shpalman wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2024 12:04 pm
IvanV wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2024 8:37 am
shpalman wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:03 pm
...and the UK is just so f.cked and I'm glad I don't live there anymore.
OT: And Italy isn't?
No.

About 11.4% of the Italian population has obesity but you can see how Lazio (with Rome in it) and then the better-off northern regions do better than the poorer southern regions. The distribution by age shows it being about 12-14% in the age range from 45 to 64.

About 30% of the UK population in that age range has obesity.
I interpreted your "so f.cked" and "glad I don't live there" in relation to life more generally than just food. Certainly going into Italian supermarkets is like going into Aladdin's cave for me, even in relatively poor regions of Italy. From the food perspective, yes I would like to live in many places other than Britain.

I thought I remembered seeing an analysis, maybe 15-20 years ago, that obesity was considerably more prevalent in men than women in Italy, to the extent that - for men - it was one of the higher rates in Europe. And around that time it seemed to be consistent with what I observed in Italians I came across. But that seems to be no longer true. So either they have managed to lose weight - if so I wonder how that happened? - or my memory is terrible, or something. (In fact, now I'm wondering, have I mixed up Greece and Italy.)

Meanwhile there does currently seem to be a bit of a sudden epidemic in childhood obesity in Italy.

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Fri Apr 12, 2024 4:12 pm

IvanV wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2024 1:23 pm
Meanwhile there does currently seem to be a bit of a sudden epidemic in childhood obesity in Italy.
Terrible UK/US-style "food" may have arrived.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Sat Apr 13, 2024 9:54 am

I have to admit that on watching presentations and interviews with Chris van Tulleken, I find myself coming round to his ideas. There are caveats, for example he has a go at diet Coke, but the point of diet coke isn't nutrition, it's "pleasure". The debate about artificial sweetners (i.e. sweet flavours which don't contain any bioavailable sugar) confusing your body and whether they help with weight loss is a slightly separate one. There's certainly nothing more healthy about drinking regular coke with all that added sugar in it.

But I do get the general point about foods tasting different to what they actually contain, i.e. meat-flavoured crisps, or about how assembling food on an industrial scale from individual components isn't quite the same as eating whole foods. I think we know that added vitamins and supplements don't necessarily work as well as getting the vitamins directly in their natural form, or that sugar in fruit hits different to sugar in cakes, or that wholegrain flour isn't necessarily unrefined flour, it's refined flour that's had the brown bits put back in.

He does, though, make the point that cooking requires more time and equipment than a lot of people have access to, as well as costing more.

So don't be fooled by the Guardian/Observer take which implies that people are just making poor choices. He knows full well that a lot of people have no choice.

Also don't be fooled by the idea that just because you can make something in your own kitchen, that the supermarket version would be made in the same way.

But looking at the ingredients of the supermarket mid-range own-brand frozen margherita pizza I just bought:

Flour, mozzarella 18.1% (pasteurized milk, salt, microbial rennet, "fermenti lattici"*) tomato sauce 16.3% (Italian tomato pulp 15.8% in the finished product, olive oil, salt, corn starch, dried oregano), water, sunflower oil, salt, raising agent**

* - i.e. the kind of bacteria which make yogurt out of milk
** - it doesn't specify what kind, but it does say that it's raised naturally for 24 hours, and then cooked on stone in a wood-fired oven before being frozen.

A box with two 330g pizzas in it (it's considered reasonable for one person to eat a whole one, which would be 811 kcals) cost me €3.19.

I usually add about 20g of Calabrian salami slices to it.

To be honest I wouldn't say there was much wrong with https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/p ... /303776050 though either, for example.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by IvanV » Sun Apr 14, 2024 9:14 am

shpalman wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2024 9:54 am
But looking at the ingredients of the supermarket mid-range own-brand frozen margherita pizza I just bought:

Flour, mozzarella 18.1% (pasteurized milk, salt, microbial rennet, "fermenti lattici"*) tomato sauce 16.3% (Italian tomato pulp 15.8% in the finished product, olive oil, salt, corn starch, dried oregano), water, sunflower oil, salt, raising agent**

* - i.e. the kind of bacteria which make yogurt out of milk
** - it doesn't specify what kind, but it does say that it's raised naturally for 24 hours, and then cooked on stone in a wood-fired oven before being frozen.

A box with two 330g pizzas in it (it's considered reasonable for one person to eat a whole one, which would be 811 kcals) cost me €3.19.

I usually add about 20g of Calabrian salami slices to it.

To be honest I wouldn't say there was much wrong with https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/p ... /303776050 though either, for example.
So far as we can tell, that looks pretty good to me. Shows what you can achieve at relatively low cost. Though pizza, whether ultra-processed or hand-made, is infamously part of the problem in making people fat. Because the effect of high heat to brown the surfaces of food makes them delicious and encourages us to pig ourselves on them. I make pizza at home, but only about once a month. I have reduced the size of them by about a quarter over time.

Raised naturally for 24 hours sounds pretty good, as ultra-processing methods could achieve it in an hour or two. If some kind of "sourfaux" methods are employed, we cannot tell. Traditional hand-made pizza takes a bit longer. The Sicilians tell a story about how a man on his death bed asked his wife to make him his favourite pizza. As it took 3 days to ferment the base, he died before it was ready. Non-ultra-processed breads can indeed be mass produced. The British, and maybe some other countries, have somehow been much more sold on the ultra-processed kind. Some other nations are much less willing to accept a product like that.

Corn starch in the tomato sauce is a bit funny, no one would normally do that to make fresh. But I suspect it is to try and limit the soaking of the sauce into the base. Probably one of those adjustments you have to make to give shelf-life, but at least they haven't used something you wouldn't have in the kitchen cupboard.

I watched a TV programme where investigative food journalists visited a major producer of supermarket pizzas in Britain. It was a family-run business by some Italians living in Glasgow. An interesting fact is that there was precisely no difference between their fresh and frozen pizzas, except the fact of freezing the frozen one, and the packaging. The frozen one sold for less because of the ease of handling and longer shelf life. Likewise it seemed a very natural product, but I was much less informed on bread baking methods those days.

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Sun Apr 14, 2024 10:02 am

But the thing about pizza is that it should naturally define a portion. One pizza = one meal. The problem comes about from people making pizzas too big. It's a lot easier to exercise impulse control when measuring out the ingredients than when deciding how many slices to eat.

The "fermenti lattici" may be there to give a sourdough-like flavour without any contribution to the raising.

There are probably some pizzerie here which use slightly faked dough too, or even just buy the dough in.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by IvanV » Sun Apr 14, 2024 10:32 am

shpalman wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 10:02 am
But the thing about pizza is that it should naturally define a portion. One pizza = one meal. The problem comes about from people making pizzas too big.
And I made precisely the mistake of making my pizzas too big to start with, which is why I now make them smaller - 125g of flour per person now rather than 167g per person which I used to do. I made the mistake of taking a sizing suggestion from an American recipe.
shpalman wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 10:02 am
The "fermenti lattici" may be there to give a sourdough-like flavour without any contribution to the raising.
Good point, and I think you may well be right. So it seems to be sourfaux rather than sourdough pizza that you are buying.

Lactic bacteria are a natural component of the sourdough community, but don't contribute - or not materially - to the raising. They do contribute to the sourdough flavour, and the fermentation products may present other useful features in the final product, depending what that product is. Professional bakers manage their sourdough starters to vary the proportions of different types of ferments for different products. For example, when we were talking about panettone, in the very technical sourdough recipe I found, the author of that recipe was managing his sourdough starter to reduce the lactic component for that product, and assessing his success with a pH meter.

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Sun Apr 14, 2024 10:52 am

No wait never mind, the "fermenti lattici" are specifically part of the mozzarella. For the pizza itself it just says "lievito". Yeast would be "lievito di birra" and sourdough would be "lievito madre". Maybe, as your link implies, they just don't know what's really in their starter, at least not to a degree that they could specify.

I know people who make their own pizzas, including having the stone wood-fired ovens. I notice one couple who seem particularly obsessed with it, at least according to their social media. Their daughter is even called Margherita.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by Stranger Mouse » Wed Apr 17, 2024 1:06 pm

shpalman wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 10:52 am
No wait never mind, the "fermenti lattici" are specifically part of the mozzarella. For the pizza itself it just says "lievito". Yeast would be "lievito di birra" and sourdough would be "lievito madre". Maybe, as your link implies, they just don't know what's really in their starter, at least not to a degree that they could specify.

I know people who make their own pizzas, including having the stone wood-fired ovens. I notice one couple who seem particularly obsessed with it, at least according to their social media. Their daughter is even called Margherita.
Margherita had a close escape. She could have been called Spicy Meatfeast.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by shpalman » Wed Apr 17, 2024 1:30 pm

Stranger Mouse wrote:
Wed Apr 17, 2024 1:06 pm
shpalman wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 10:52 am
No wait never mind, the "fermenti lattici" are specifically part of the mozzarella. For the pizza itself it just says "lievito". Yeast would be "lievito di birra" and sourdough would be "lievito madre". Maybe, as your link implies, they just don't know what's really in their starter, at least not to a degree that they could specify.

I know people who make their own pizzas, including having the stone wood-fired ovens. I notice one couple who seem particularly obsessed with it, at least according to their social media. Their daughter is even called Margherita.
Margherita had a close escape. She could have been called Spicy Meatfeast.
Yes, she could have. That is a common kind of pizza in Italy. Literally with that name in English. They were going to call her that until I explained what it meant.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by Grumble » Wed Apr 17, 2024 5:26 pm

shpalman wrote:
Wed Apr 17, 2024 1:30 pm
Stranger Mouse wrote:
Wed Apr 17, 2024 1:06 pm
shpalman wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2024 10:52 am
No wait never mind, the "fermenti lattici" are specifically part of the mozzarella. For the pizza itself it just says "lievito". Yeast would be "lievito di birra" and sourdough would be "lievito madre". Maybe, as your link implies, they just don't know what's really in their starter, at least not to a degree that they could specify.

I know people who make their own pizzas, including having the stone wood-fired ovens. I notice one couple who seem particularly obsessed with it, at least according to their social media. Their daughter is even called Margherita.
Margherita had a close escape. She could have been called Spicy Meatfeast.
Yes, she could have. That is a common kind of pizza in Italy. Literally with that name in English. They were going to call her that until I explained what it meant.
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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by bob sterman » Thu May 09, 2024 5:41 am

Association of ultra-processed food consumption with all cause and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study
https://www.bmj.com/content/385/bmj-2023-078476
Compared with those in the lowest quarter of ultra-processed food consumption, participants in the highest quarter had a 4% higher all cause mortality (hazard ratio 1.04, 95% confidence interval 1.01 to 1.07)
So UPFs bad - but not quite in the same league as some other causes of ill-health?

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Re: Ultra-processed food

Post by snoozeofreason » Thu May 09, 2024 3:19 pm

bob sterman wrote:
Thu May 09, 2024 5:41 am
...
So UPFs bad - but not quite in the same league as some other causes of ill-health?
And also perhaps lacking the external validity of other statements about causes of ill-health. For example, the reasons why wine is bad for our health are closely linked to the reasons why we classify it as (alcoholic) wine. So statements about the damage it does to us are fairly robust generalisations that will continue to be true even if, say, Merlot falls out of favour and is replaced in our affections by Pinot Noir.

But the term "UPF" bundles together all sorts of foodstuffs with different risks and probably different risk-causing mechanisms. Any statement about the risks of UPFs in general will depend on how our UPF intake is divided up between sugary drinks, ultra-processed whole-grain cereals, dark chocolate, etc. and might stop being true if that balance shifted, even if the total amount of UPF we consume remained the same.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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