web analytics

The Bias in Our Diet: New View on Ultra-Processed Foods

Government committee finds limited evidence that ultra-processed foods lead to obesity.

by | Jun 15, 2024 | Articles, Healthcare, Opinion

Ultra-processed foods (UPF) may not be the recipe for disaster we’ve been led to believe, according to the 2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) created the DGAC committee in January 2023, appointing 20 nutrition and public health experts to review the current literature and make recommendations for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025 – 2030.

Although reputable health news and information sites have long cautioned that eating ultra-processed foods increases the risk of obesity, preliminary committee findings reveal that the association between ultra-processed foods and obesity is correlative, not causative. There’s limited direct evidence that ultra-processed foods cause obesity, and caloric intake remains the driving force of weight gain, not the level of food processing.

In a conclusion statement and grade shared during its committee meeting on May 30, 2024, the DGAC said, “Limited evidence suggests that dietary patterns with higher amounts of foods classified as UPF consumed by adults and older adults are associated with greater adiposity (fat mass, waist circumference, BMI) and risk of obesity/overweight.” The committee called for clarity in classification to drive additional research.

Ultra-Processed Foods May Go Up a Grade Point or Two

The largest study of ultra-processed food and obesity was published by The BMJ online on Feb. 28, 2024, and it conceded low and very low evidence quality as well as weak evidence credibility linking UPF to obesity.

The framework the researchers used to classify ultra-processed foods, NOVA, is also based on a false premise: All ultra-processed foods are equally bad for us. As the authors of a clinical perspective published in Trends in Food Science & Technology argue, “NOVA is based on the erroneous assumption that all commercially manufactured foods have low nutritional value, promote weight gain and chronic diseases to consumers because they contain sugar, salt and additives. It dismisses the proven benefits of diets chosen with the right mix of foods at all levels of processing.”

The four levels of processing, according to NOVA are:

  • NOVA 1: unprocessed or minimally processed foods (pasteurized milk, natural yogurt)
  • NOVA 2: oils, fats, salt, and sugar (olive oil, butter, honey)
  • NOVA 3: processed foods (bacon, canned vegetables, fresh unpackaged wheat bread)
  • NOVA 4: ultra-processed foods (chocolate milk, hot dog buns, frozen pizza)

No one is saying it’s a great idea to live on hamburgers, fries, and sugary soft drinks, but some ultra-processed foods may deserve a pass. “Some of those NOVA 4 products are high in all the good things and low in a lot of the bad things that we traditionally think of in terms of nutrition. I would argue that that probably has a good chance of being a healthy ultra-processed food,” Kevin Hall, PhD and senior investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, told Business Insider. Hall also suggested that since avoiding ultra-processed foods altogether isn’t realistic for most people, choosing potentially healthy ultra-processed options packed with green vegetables, whole grains, or legumes can be a reasonable way to go.

We need a lot more information,” Jerry Mande, MPH and the CEO of the nonprofit Nourish Science, was quoted as saying in an article published by WebMD entitled “Ultra-Processed Food and Your Health: What to Know.” “We should know exactly what it is about ultra-processed food … so we can, as consumers, make better choices.”

As the DGAC continues to evaluate the state of nutrition science,  it is hopeful more ultra-logic will emerge, balancing the ultra-hype.

Read More From E.C. Creekmore

Latest Posts

BREAKING: Trump Reveals His Pick for VP

On July 15, the first day of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, WI, former President Donald Trump...

BREAKING: Trump Document Case Dismissed

Florida Judge Aileen Cannon has dismissed the pending case against former President Donald Trump over his alleged...

Dodging a Bullet: America in Shock

Those of us who lived through the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the horrifying assassination of John F....

Dark Days for America – The World Reacts

In the hours following the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a rally in Butler,...