Processed food has been in the spotlight for several years now, and many researchers claim that they are responsible for several health problems and civilization illnesses. As a result of pressure from health agencies, many food manufacturers have made changed during the process, altered the fat and carbohydrate content of their products. However, in order to prove that processed food has a negative effect on human health, there is a need for researching the topic and looking at research data. The below study is designed to evaluate the claims that processed food is directly responsible for diabetes and obesity in the society. The authors would like to examine claims, research and studies in order to create a framework for reducing health risks of Americans and improving their diet.
The authors would like to prove the following thesis: “Processed food is directly responsible for the increased rate of obesity and Type 1 or 2 diabetes in America.”
Jalonick (2010) confirms that a pledge has been made by the organizations of Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation and Partnership for a Healthier America supported by the First Lady to reduce over 1.5 trillion calories in goods produced by food and beverage manufacturers. The aim is to increase awareness of the health risks, provide recommendations for not only diet but the healthy lifestyle as well. The First Lady also has created a Childhood Obesity Action Plan to tackle obesity and create a healthier America. (Sweet) While processed food is usually mentioned as a main reason for obesity, the lack of exercise, the spread of home entertainment including gaming consoles, computers and television are also to blame. The changed lifestyle of people results in more money to be spent on food, less time to cook from scratch and a comfortable life without having to get out of the house. Some diet publishers, especially Loren Cordain claim that while our body has not adapted to the increased calorie intake and lack of exercise, processed food is not suitable for the human body. It is, in fact true that there are some differences between caveman’s and the modern lifestyle; we do not have to hunt or gather, run after the animals and exercise much less than cavemen did. We also eat more processed food, of course.
Before trying to find a connection between obesity, diabetes and processed food, it is important to ask the question many have asked before: “What exactly is wrong with processed food?” The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (web) seems to provide an answer in a recent publication. According to the publication, increased sodium intake is one of the major contributors to stroke, heart problems and high blood pressure. The organization also states that 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from restaurant food and processed fast food. Salt only adds up a small percentage of the total sodium intake. Before we examine the scientific research closer, however, there is a need to look at the official definition of processed food, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Quoted in: The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 3) “any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.” The above definition means that the food is not in its raw form and has been modified. This can mean added ingredients, mostly additives. While in America all processed food items are legally required to have a clear label on them stating the fat, carbohydrate and sodium content, not many Americans are aware of the recommended amount of intake or simply neglect it.
Pros And Cons
From the society’s point of view, there is certainly a place for processed food. People (including women) are in full time work and preparing food from scratch might not be a solution if they only have one hour to get dinner ready for the family. (Saphiro 15) Certainly, the price of processed food in America is also an advantage, as well as the wide availability. It is usually cheaper to buy bulk frozen meals than getting all the ingredients. As a conclusion: the three main benefits of processed food are convenience, price and the fact that they can save time for busy people.
The negative effects of consuming processed food are related to diet and health and have been examined for decades. First of all, with processing, many vitamins and minerals disappear from the original ingredients. Secondly, according to Puristat (web), “Refining destroys and devitalizes most of foods’ goodness”. Describing the process of producing processed food, the company highlights various risks, such as: toxins, preservatives, lack of antioxidants, colorings, synthetic sweeteners, flavorings, as well as the refining process that results in increased glucose levels contributing towards the development of diabetes.
According to Monteiro et al., evidence shows that the increase of processed food consumption impacts human health. The authors researched three groups in Brazil: Group one was on a non-processed food diet, Group two was put on a meal plan including processed ingredients while group three was given ultra-processed food products. The caloric share of consumption over the years in the ultra-processed food eating group increased continuously. This research clearly shows that those people who eat processed food are at a higher risk of overeating, obesity, as well as developing metabolic illnesses.
Looking at the effect of globalization and the appearance of processed food in India, researchers have evaluated the health effects. (Vepa 212) The author has proved that sugar and carbohydrate consumption significantly grew over the years, as a result of consuming more processed food. This resulted in undernutrition of the population, especially measured among pregnant women and children. Obesity grew as the consumption of processed food increased. It is important to reflect on the above study, as it examines a country where there is no long term tradition of eating processed food and the consumption is on a sharp rise. The thesis was confirmed by the results of the study.
While the above study did not go into a great depth of what makes processed food unhealthy, it attempted to examine the relationship between the increase of these foods and obesity, blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. The examined studies have proved the initial thesis that processed food consumption has adverse effect on people’s lifestyle. While there are initiatives in America supported by Michelle Obama to change residents’ lifestyle, more research is needed to be able to put pressure on food manufacturers to make their products healthier. Still, without the promotion of other aspects of healthy lifestyle, like regular exercise, outdoor activities, there is no chance to achieve significant results.
Jalonick, Mary Clare (17 May 2010). “Food companies agree to remove 15 trillion calories from foods to reduce childhood obesity”. Business News. Associated Press. Print.
Sweet, Lynn (11 May 2010). “Michelle Obama Unveils Anti-Childhood Obesity Action Plan”. Politics Daily. Web.
Shapiro, Laura (March 29, 2005). Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America. New York: Penguin11. Print.
Clark, Irene L. (1998) The Genre of Argument. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, 1998. Print.
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The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (web) Get the Facts: Sodium’s role in processed food. Web.
Interview: Dr. Loren Cordain discusses the Paleo Diet. The RX Review. Web.
Puristat. (web) Glazed and Confused…It’s Time To Wake Up And Smell The Coffee. Web.
Monteiro, C., Levy, R., Claro, R., Castro, I., Cannon, G. (2010) Increasing consumption of ultra- processed foods and likely impact on human health: evidence from Brazil. Public Health Nutrition: 14(1), 5–13 Print.
Vepa. S. (2004) “Impact of globalization on the food consumption of urban India” In: SS Vepa: Globalization of food systems in developing countries. 2004 FAO. Print.