It is possible. We can make simple changes in our habits that will have huge consequences on our health and quality of life. These changes are often best brought about by first determining what needs changing and then developing new habits.
But what if some of those habits could be changed by just shopping differently in the grocery store? Rather than waiting to think about food choices until you want that snack or begin cooking a meal at home, what if you made those choices at the shops, farmers markets, while online shopping or even in your kitchen garden. I am a big believer in the habit of shopping healthy. Maybe you are like Jill and I, if we don’t have it in the house, we don’t eat it… That simple.
I don’t change my habits easily. If you are like me, you need to understand that there are good reasons to make a change before putting in the work required to change a personal behavior. In my case, after six decades spinning around the sun, I have developed habits that are so deeply embedded into my daily life that it takes some pretty powerful forces to get me to change. Often data or logic is not enough, and it takes some crisis or new fear to persuade that change is necessary.
Jill and I are trying to bring a focus on wellness into both our daily lives and our daily essays. But many very capable colleagues already write or speak on wellness. What we strive to do is to continue our focus on bringing data-based analyses to our readers, but at least once a week to turn from the COVIDcrisis to more general wellness topics. So, while reading new research that has just been published, we came across an article on processed foods that blew us away. Then we dug deeper into the issue of ultra-processed food on “Pubmed.”
The more we researched, the more we became convinced that we can all easily make some very small changes to our diet which will make huge differences to our longterm health and that of our children. So in this essay we bring a focus on some recently published studies which have convinced us to shop a little differently, to eat a little differently. I certainly think I am going to pay a little more attention to what we buy. At our house, what gets bought, ends up being what gets put on the table.
Rather than nagging – let’s look to the science, new science, new data to help guide us in making smart food choices.
Eating More Ultra-Processed Foods Associated With Increased Risk of Dementia
Date:July 27, 2022 Source:American Academy of Neurology
Summary: People who eat the highest amounts of ultra-processed foods like soft drinks, chips and cookies may have a higher risk of developing dementia than those who eat the lowest amounts, according to a new study. Researchers also found that replacing ultra-processed foods in a person’s diet with unprocessed or minimally processed foods was associated with a lower risk.
On average, ultra-processed foods made up 9% of the daily diet of people in the lowest group, an average of 225 grams per day, compared to 28% for people in the highest group, or an average of 814 grams per day. One serving of items like pizza or fish sticks was equivalent to 150 grams. The main food group contributing to high ultra-processed food intake was beverages, followed by sugary products and ultra-processed dairy.
In the lowest group, 105 of the 18,021 people developed dementia, compared to 150 of the 18,021 people in the highest group.
After adjusting for age, gender, family history of dementia and heart disease and other factors that could affect risk of dementia, researchers found that for every 10% increase in daily intake of ultra-processed foods, people had a 25% higher risk of dementia.
Researchers also used study data to estimate what would happen if a person substituted 10% of ultra-processed foods with unprocessed or minimally processed foods, like fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes, milk and meat. They found that such a substitution was associated with a 19% lower risk of dementia.
“Our results also show increasing unprocessed or minimally processed foods by only 50 grams a day, which is equivalent to half an apple, a serving of corn, or a bowl of bran cereal, and simultaneously decreasing ultra-processed foods by 50 grams a day, equivalent to a chocolate bar or a serving of fish sticks, is associated with 3% decreased risk of dementia,” said Li.
“It’s encouraging to know that small and manageable changes in diet may make a difference in a person’s risk of dementia.”
An editorial accompanying the study, written by Maura E. Walker, PhD, of Boston University in Massachusetts said:
“While nutrition research has started to focus on food processing, the challenge is categorizing such foods as unprocessed, minimally processed, processed and ultra-processed. For example, foods like soup would be classified differently if canned versus homemade. Plus, the level of processing is not always aligned with diet quality. Plant-based burgers that qualify as high quality may also be ultra-processed. As we aim to understand better the complexities of dietary intake, we must also consider that more high-quality dietary assessments may be required.”
What Are Ultra-Processed Foods:
Randomized Controlled Trial
Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort
BMJ. 2018 Feb 14;360:k322. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k322.
Objective: To assess the prospective associations between consumption of ultra-processed food and risk of cancer.
Design: Population based cohort study.
Setting and participants: 104 980 participants aged at least 18 years (median age 42.8 years) from the French NutriNet-Santé cohort (2009-17). Dietary intakes were collected using repeated 24 hour dietary records, designed to register participants’ usual consumption for 3300 different food items. These were categorised according to their degree of processing by the NOVA classification.
Main outcome measures: Associations between ultra-processed food intake and risk of overall, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer assessed by multivariable Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for known risk factors.
Results: Ultra-processed food intake was associated with higher overall cancer risk (n=2228 cases; hazard ratio for a 10% increment in the proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet 1.12 (95% confidence interval 1.06 to 1.18); P for trend<0.001) and breast cancer risk (n=739 cases; hazard ratio 1.11 (1.02 to 1.22); P for trend=0.02). These results remained statistically significant after adjustment for several markers of the nutritional quality of the diet (lipid, sodium, and carbohydrate intakes and/or a Western pattern derived by principal component analysis).
Conclusions: In this large prospective study, a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a significant increase of greater than 10% in risks of overall and breast cancer. Further studies are needed to better understand the relative effect of the various dimensions of processing (nutritional composition, food additives, contact materials, and neoformed contaminants) in these associations.
The BMJ examined representative dietary records of more than 100,000 French adults over a five-year period. They found that those who consumed more ultra-processed foods had higher risks of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease.
These results remained statistically significant even after the researchers adjusted for the nutritional quality of the diet (considering factors such as the amount saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and dietary fiber in the diets). Although large observational studies do not prove cause and effect, the research does suggest an association between ultra-processed diets and heart disease.
Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol . 2022 Aug 8;S2468-1253(22)00169-8. doi: 10.1016/S2468-1253(22)00169-8. Online ahead of print.
Epidemiological studies have suggested a role for ultra-processed foods in numerous chronic inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases and metabolic syndrome. Preclinical and clinical studies are accumulating to better decipher the effects of various aspects of food processing and formulation on the aetiology of chronic, debilitating inflammatory diseases. In this Review, we provide an overview of the current data that highlight an association between ultra-processed food consumption and various chronic diseases, with a focus on epidemiological evidence and mechanistic insights involving the intestinal microbiota.
Nov. 11, 2019 — Americans get more than 50 percent of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods. Measures of heart health decrease as ultra-processed food consumption …
May 29, 2019 — Two large European studies find positive associations between consumption of highly processed (‘ultra-processed’) foods and risk of cardiovascular disease and …
Trends in Consumption of Ultraprocessed Foods Among US Youths Aged 2-19 Years, 1999-2018
JAMA. 2021;326(6):519-530. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.10238
In this serial cross-sectional study of nationally representative data from 33 795 US youths aged 2-19 years, the estimated percentage of total energy consumed from ultraprocessed foods increased from 61.4% to 67.0%, whereas the percentage of total energy consumed from unprocessed or minimally processed foods decreased from 28.8% to 23.5%.
May 16, 2019 — People eating ultra-processed foods ate more calories and gained more weight than when they ate a minimally processed diet, according to results from a new study. The difference occurred even though …
Sep. 22, 2017 — A new study demonstrated that people of normal weight tend to associate natural foods such as apples with their sensory characteristics. On the other hand, processed foods such as pizzas are …
This story was originally published on the Who is Robert Malone Substack.