Study shows how processed foods aren’t so great for you

May 10, 2024, 7:51 PM

An apple pie surrounded by apples....

Ultra processed food, like an apple pie, might not be as good for you as you think. (Canva)


SALT LAKE CITY — A study that has gone back for over 30 years is showing how individuals who consume large amounts of calories from ultra-processed foods are more likely to have premature death. 

Assistant Vice President for Health Promotion and Wellness and nutrition at Intermountain Health, Robin Aufdenkampe explained what the study found to KSL NewsRadio.

“One of the things that was important in [the research] is just how large the study was. The total number of people,” Aufdenkampe said.

“It’s not a causal study it’s just a correlations. So, they’re not saying that ultra-processed foods will kill you earlier, but they are saying that in their observations the individuals who consumed more calories from ultra-processed foods were more likely to have premature death.”

Aufdenkampe said ultra processed foods are foods that have been taken from their natural state and are altered. When the food is altered, the nutrients, fiber and protein are taken from the food.

Aufdenkampe said sugars, salt, artificial flavorings, emulsifiers and additives are usually added into the food as a replacement. She added that a person normally wouldn’t have those replacements in their diet if they were eating natural foods or minimally processed foods.

Aufdenkampe said ultra processed foods can cause hypertension, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, weight gain and risk of obesity. Eating foods that are not processed can increase the nutrient quality that people take in every day that prevents disease.

Spotting processed food

One example Aufdenkampe gave KSL was an apple. She said an apple on it’s own is an unprocessed food. The apple is minimally processed when it becomes apple sauce, maybe with some cinnamon or spice added to it. Aufdenkampe said an apple pie is ultra processed.

Another example Aufdenkampe gave was meat.

“Meat is one of those four categories that the research showed we should really try to moderate or reduce. Those ultra-processed meats, that a plain chicken breast or a fresh cut steak would be an unprocessed or minimally processed,” Aufdenkampe said.

“Ground meat would be minimally processed. But then if you move to deli meats, and salamis, and meats that have a lot of additives to them, that’s ultra processed, and we’d want to avoid those.”

How to eat healthier

“Researchers have been studying alter processed foods now for well over a decade and all of the recommendations are to minimize ultra-processed foods,” Aufdenkampe said.

“So if you’re having something once or twice a week, that’s probably going to be okay, but if you’re eating these foods consistently every day, that is too much.”

Aufdenkampe said to take eating healthier at a slow pace with three meals a day. Two of those meals should have nothing processed in it, while that third meal would have processed food in it. Continue to work down from there by having one ultra-processed food once or twice a week.

Aufdenkampe said the majority of a person’s intake should be with unprocessed or minimally processed healthier high-quality foods.

“As they say, you know, when you’re in the grocery store stick to the perimeters for the healthy foods,” Aufdenkampe said.

“The produce section, the dairy section, the meat section and avoid those inner aisles with all the processed food in them.”

KSL NewsRadio News Director Becky Bruce contributed to this story.


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Study shows how processed foods aren’t so great for you