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Heavily processed foods cause overeating and weight gain, study finds
By Jane Kitchen 17 May 2019
Participants, on average, gained 0.9 kilograms, or 2 pounds, while they were on the ultra-processed diet and lost an equivalent amount on the unprocessed diet
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 National Institutes of Health study.

The difference occurred even though meals provided to the volunteers in both the ultra-processed and minimally processed diets had the same number of calories and macronutrients. The results were published in Cell Metabolism.

This small-scale study of 20 adult volunteers, conducted by researchers at the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), is the first randomized controlled trial examining the effects of ultra-processed foods as defined by the NOVA classification system. This system considers foods "ultra-processed" if they have ingredients predominantly found in industrial food manufacturing, such as hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavoring agents, and emulsifiers.

Previous observational studies looking at large groups of people had shown associations between diets high in processed foods and health problems. But, because none of the past studies randomly assigned people to eat specific foods and then measured the results, scientists could not say for sure whether the processed foods were a problem on their own, or whether people eating them had health problems for other reasons, such as a lack of access to fresh foods.

"Though we examined a small group, results from this tightly controlled experiment showed a clear and consistent difference between the two diets," said Kevin D. Hall, Ph.D., an NIDDK senior investigator and the study's lead author. "This is the first study to demonstrate causality – that ultra-processed foods cause people to eat too many calories and gain weight."

For the study, researchers admitted 20 healthy adult volunteers, 10 male and 10 female, to the NIH Clinical Center for one continuous month and, in random order for two weeks on each diet, provided them with meals made up of ultra-processed foods or meals of minimally processed foods. For example, an ultra-processed breakfast might consist of a bagel with cream cheese and turkey bacon, while the unprocessed breakfast was oatmeal with bananas, walnuts, and skim milk.

The ultra-processed and unprocessed meals had the same amount of calories, sugars, fiber, fat, and carbohydrates, and participants could eat as much or as little as they wanted.

On the ultra-processed diet, people ate about 500 calories more per day than they did on the unprocessed diet. They also ate faster on the ultra-processed diet and gained weight, whereas they lost weight on the unprocessed diet. Participants, on average, gained 0.9 kilograms, or 2 pounds, while they were on the ultra-processed diet and lost an equivalent amount on the unprocessed diet.

"We need to figure out what specific aspect of the ultra-processed foods affected people's eating behaviour and led them to gain weight," Hall said. "The next step is to design similar studies with a reformulated ultra-processed diet to see if the changes can make the diet effect on calorie intake and body weight disappear."

For example, slight differences in protein levels between the ultra-processed and unprocessed diets in this study could potentially explain as much as half the difference in calorie intake.

"Over time, extra calories add up, and that extra weight can lead to serious health conditions," said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. "Research like this is an important part of understanding the role of nutrition in health and may also help people identify foods that are both nutritious and accessible – helping people stay healthy for the long term."

While the study reinforces the benefits of unprocessed foods, researchers note that ultra-processed foods can be difficult to restrict. "We have to be mindful that it takes more time and more money to prepare less-processed foods," Hall said. "Just telling people to eat healthier may not be effective for some people without improved access to healthy foods."


News
1 to 12 of 7151 news stories
14 Nov 2019
Green Spa Network (GSN) has announced its upcoming Self-care and Personal Sustainability Summit, which will take place from 1-3 December 2020, at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Massachusetts, US. The workshop is designed to ... More
14 Nov 2019
Private equity firm CI Capital Partners has acquired a majority interest in spa consultancy and management firm WTS International. The deal – for which no financials were released – will see the WTS management team ... More
13 Nov 2019
Destination spa Canyon Ranch has opened its first retreat model, Canyon Ranch Wellness Retreat – Woodside, set on 16 acres of ancient redwood forest in California, US. The property is designed as a “true retreat ... More
13 Nov 2019
Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos (SMA) have created a branched, undulating design for Chablé's planned Sea of Cortez spa resort that blends with the natural landscape and gives guests both privacy and ocean views. Located on the ... More
13 Nov 2019
Finnish organisation World Sauna Challenge will host an attempt to break the Guinness World record for ‘Most Nationalities in a Sauna’ at Suomenlinna Naval Academy sauna, Finland, on 14 November. Known as the home of ... More
13 Nov 2019
Lanserhof at The Arts Club – a private members’ medi-gym in London’s Mayfair – has partnered with personalised health-system provider, bioniq Health Tech Solutions, to offer members a bespoke supplement programme, bioniq LIFE. In-depth blood, ... More
11 Nov 2019
Portuguese eco-spa Douro41 has partnered with Irish product house, Moss of the Isles, after a €500,000 (US$551907, £429372) refurbishment of its spa, located on the banks of the Douro river, Vista Alegre. Douro41 is a ... More
11 Nov 2019
US-based skincare brand KNESKO has appointed Aldo Celeste as national sales director for its spa division. Founded by Reiki master Lejla Cas, KNESKO has international spa partnerships with brands including Canyon Ranch, The Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont, ... More
08 Nov 2019
An iconic hot springs resort in Arizona, US dating back to the 19th century has marked its return to the world of luxury hospitality, re-opening its doors last month for its first full season. Castle ... More
07 Nov 2019
SHA Wellness Clinic, a destination spa in Spain focused on integrated medical and holistic wellness, has announced plans to take its concept worldwide, with the opening of two new properties on different continents within the ... More
07 Nov 2019
Podiatry brand BGA Corp has opened its first Portuguese location at the five-star hotel Corinthia Lisbon. BGA Corp was founded by the French podiatrist, Bastien Gonzalez. The company designs and develops treatments in France for ... More
06 Nov 2019
Chavana Spa has opened its latest site at the Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar hotel in Malaysia. Chavana, a Balinese “affordable wellness” concept aimed at four- and five-star hotels and resorts, is operated by health and ... More
     
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NEWS
Heavily processed foods cause overeating and weight gain, study finds
POSTED 17 May 2019 . BY Jane Kitchen
Participants, on average, gained 0.9 kilograms, or 2 pounds, while they were on the ultra-processed diet and lost an equivalent amount on the unprocessed diet Credit: shutterstock/182011403
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 National Institutes of Health study.

The difference occurred even though meals provided to the volunteers in both the ultra-processed and minimally processed diets had the same number of calories and macronutrients. The results were published in Cell Metabolism.

This small-scale study of 20 adult volunteers, conducted by researchers at the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), is the first randomized controlled trial examining the effects of ultra-processed foods as defined by the NOVA classification system. This system considers foods "ultra-processed" if they have ingredients predominantly found in industrial food manufacturing, such as hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavoring agents, and emulsifiers.

Previous observational studies looking at large groups of people had shown associations between diets high in processed foods and health problems. But, because none of the past studies randomly assigned people to eat specific foods and then measured the results, scientists could not say for sure whether the processed foods were a problem on their own, or whether people eating them had health problems for other reasons, such as a lack of access to fresh foods.

"Though we examined a small group, results from this tightly controlled experiment showed a clear and consistent difference between the two diets," said Kevin D. Hall, Ph.D., an NIDDK senior investigator and the study's lead author. "This is the first study to demonstrate causality – that ultra-processed foods cause people to eat too many calories and gain weight."

For the study, researchers admitted 20 healthy adult volunteers, 10 male and 10 female, to the NIH Clinical Center for one continuous month and, in random order for two weeks on each diet, provided them with meals made up of ultra-processed foods or meals of minimally processed foods. For example, an ultra-processed breakfast might consist of a bagel with cream cheese and turkey bacon, while the unprocessed breakfast was oatmeal with bananas, walnuts, and skim milk.

The ultra-processed and unprocessed meals had the same amount of calories, sugars, fiber, fat, and carbohydrates, and participants could eat as much or as little as they wanted.

On the ultra-processed diet, people ate about 500 calories more per day than they did on the unprocessed diet. They also ate faster on the ultra-processed diet and gained weight, whereas they lost weight on the unprocessed diet. Participants, on average, gained 0.9 kilograms, or 2 pounds, while they were on the ultra-processed diet and lost an equivalent amount on the unprocessed diet.

"We need to figure out what specific aspect of the ultra-processed foods affected people's eating behaviour and led them to gain weight," Hall said. "The next step is to design similar studies with a reformulated ultra-processed diet to see if the changes can make the diet effect on calorie intake and body weight disappear."

For example, slight differences in protein levels between the ultra-processed and unprocessed diets in this study could potentially explain as much as half the difference in calorie intake.

"Over time, extra calories add up, and that extra weight can lead to serious health conditions," said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. "Research like this is an important part of understanding the role of nutrition in health and may also help people identify foods that are both nutritious and accessible – helping people stay healthy for the long term."

While the study reinforces the benefits of unprocessed foods, researchers note that ultra-processed foods can be difficult to restrict. "We have to be mindful that it takes more time and more money to prepare less-processed foods," Hall said. "Just telling people to eat healthier may not be effective for some people without improved access to healthy foods."
 


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