नशे की लत वाले खाद्य पदार्थ से कैसे बचें Addictive Foods : How to avoid

Author : Dr. P. D.GUPTA

Former Director Grade Scientist, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India


Processed foods have been around for millions of years. Humans learned processing techniques to make food safer, tastier, and longer lasting. The precise origins of cooking are unknown, but, at some point in the distant past, early humans conquered fire and started using it to prepare food. Researchers have found what appear to be the remains of campfires made 1.5 million years ago by our ancestors.In this process we have reached the point where modern food production methods are coming at an unsustainably steep cost to our health.

Ultra-processed foods (UPFs)

UPFs are more durable, cheaper products, but they are often nutrient-deficient and high in calories, sugar, fat, salt, and a host of additives. Emerging evidence suggests that greater UPF consumption can increase the risk for several noncommunicable diseases and related mortality.

An Increasingly Dominant Food Source

Foods can be Unprocessed or minimally processed, processed culinary ingredients (Home cooked food), processed foods, and Ultra-processed foods (UPFs).Processed foods are manufactured with minimal alterations from their natural state, such as by adding salt, sugar, or oil. Examples include fruit preserved in syrup and vegetables preserved in vinegar or by pickling.

UPFs are highly modified products created through industrial processes. They typically contain multiple additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. These foods, built for long shelf lives, include sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed meat products, flavored yogurts, packaged snacks, and breakfast cereals.

 Consumption of UPFs is increasing worldwide, with the highest daily energy intake from UPFs among adults occurring in the United States (58%) and the United Kingdom (57%). Among youth, these numbers may be even higher. A large cross-sectional study of US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data showed that from 1999 to 2018, the percentage of total energy consumption from UPFs increased from 61.4% to 67% in people aged 2-19 years.

The specific components in UPFs that contribute to various GI diseases remain to be determined. However, preclinical studies have shown that common food additives (eg, sweeteners, coloring agents, emulsifiers, microparticles, or nanoparticles) may adversely affect the gut, including intestinal permeability, intestinal inflammation, and the microorganism.

Risk for Overweight/Obesity and Metabolic Health

The link between UPFs and overweight/obesity has been noted in several studies. One of the first of its kind was a small trial from 2019, in which participants were randomized to either a UPF or minimally processed diet for 2 consecutive weeks, then switched to the alternate diet. It found that during the UPF diet period, patients consumed approximately 500 more calories a day and gained around 2 lb. The increased risk for weight gain may even be conveyed to children during pregnancy. A 2022 study of 19,958 mother-child pairs found that the offspring of those who consumed the most UPFs had a 26% higher risk for overweight/obesity than those who consumed the least.

Children who consume high levels of UPFs also have significant alterations in their metabolome, potentially leaving them vulnerable to poorer metabolic health and increased risk for overweight/obesity, Certain UPFs are associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

In the United States, the prevalence of IBD has increased over the past decade, with UPF consumption identified as one of the potential causes. This is backed up by a recent meta-analysis, which reported that consuming high levels of UPFs can increase the risk for IBD by 47% in adults.

Higher UPF consumption appears to increase the risk for Crohn's disease (CD) more than ulcerative colitis (UC). A 2023 meta-analysis established a 71% increased risk for CD associated with high UPF consumption but found no such association with UC. This discrepancy is also apparent in several large prospective studies

UPF consumption may also worsen symptoms in those who already have established IBD. Several food additives, including the emulsifiers carboxymethyl cellulose, polysorbate 80, and carrageenan, as potential causes of GI inflammation and IBD.

Association with Cancer Risk

High UPF consumption increases the risk of developing cancer overall, as well as overall, ovarian, and breast cancer-related mortality. The inverse effect also appears to be true.  It was found that substituting 10% of UPFs for minimally processed foods lowered the overall cancer risk by 4% and the risk for liver cancer and esophageal cancer by 27% and 20%, respectively.

 In the   study carried out in 2023 it was found that a high intake of UPFs was associated with an increased risk for colorectal cancer (CRC) and pancreatic cancer. The results from three prospective US cohort studies indicated that high consumption of UPFs increased the risk for CRC in men. Certain subgroups of UPFs were also associated with an increased risk for CRC in both men and women. For patients with existing CRC, continued consumption of UPFs may contribute to increased mortality risk.

 Avoid These Addictive Foods

Persons may be at a disadvantage when trying to resist the pull of UPFs. The high carbohydrate and fat content in UPFs produces a dopamine surge in the brain comparable with nicotine. It also has been estimated that UPF addiction occurs in 14% of adults and 12% of children. Certain UPFs, such as candy and frozen desserts, have been proposed to act as "gateway foods" for teens, pushing them toward other unhealthy dietary practices. (The author has his own study and views)