Ultra-Processed Food, Drink Driving Global Epidemic of Non-Communicable Disease

obesity-evolutionIn 2011, the United Nations convened a high-level meeting to address the  global burden of non-communicable diseases. Participants concluded that unhealthy commodities, specifically tobacco, alcohol and ultra-processed food and drink, are the major drivers behind the growing global epidemic of non-communicable diseases. Ultra-processed foods are those made from substances extracted from whole foods and the cheapest parts of remnants of animal foods. The contain little or no whole foods. Examples of ultra-processed foods include fats and oils, flour and starches, variants of sugar and products made from meat scraps and ground meat remnants, like hamburgers, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, frozen pizza, cereal bars, biscuits, carbonated and other sugary drinks and many snack products. What’s more, sugar is now being included as a major hidden ingredient in foods that people generally do not think contain much sugar. For example, he New York Times reported February 20 that a single serving of Yoplait yogurt now has twice much sugar per serving as General Mill’s marshmallow cereal Lucky Charms, but people still think of yogurt as a healthy snack. Just half a cup of Prego Traditional spaghetti sauce now contains the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar — more than the sugar contained in two Oreo cookies. The group found that transnational corporations are the major drivers of non-communicable disease epidemics like obesity, that the alcohol and ultra-processed food and drink industries are now using similar strategies to the tobacco industry to undermine public health policies and programs aimed at limiting their spread and use. The panel concluded that these industries should not be given a role in creating international policy to address non-communicable diseases, and called for public regulation and market intervention to prevent the harm caused by these products and industries. The top five food companies contributing to the epidemic in the U.S. are 1) Kraft Foods, 2) PepsiCo, 3) Nestle’, 4) Mars and 5) Kellogg.  One major rule people can follow to avoid becoming obese? According to Michael Pollan, one of the best-known names in food-related issues, don’t eat any foods you’ve ever seen advertised on TV.

Main source: The Lancet, Profits and pandemics: prevention of harmful effects of tobacco alcohol and ultra-processed food and drink industries, published online February 12, 2013

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