Study: Ultra-processed food causes weight gain


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – We all want to look our best for swimsuit season, but there’s something in your diet that may put you at a disadvantage. It’s ultra-processed food which could be blowing up your waistline.

A new study dives into that topic just in time for swim season. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, the findings may very well have you changing what you buy for your family at the grocery store.
When asked if it’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Wilkes University’s Dana Manning, Pharm.D., R.D., LDN  said, “Well, it kind of depends on what you’re choosing for breakfast.” And that’s really at the heart of a study by the National Institutes of Health concerning ultra-processed foods. 

The study followed 20 young adults for two weeks each. Some ate ultra-processed foods, some didn’t. The conclusion?  “The study ended up finding that people who ate a diet that was high in ultra-processed foods — whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner — ended up gaining a little bit of weight and had some changes in their hormone levels,” said Dr. Manning.

Those changes made the participants hungrier and caused them to gain about a pound a week. To better understand the conclusion, Dr. Manning says you need to know what makes-up ultra-processed foods. “So, foods that have gone through many different layers of processing. Typically, foods that are ready to eat. Maybe something that you’d reheat very quickly. Something that we might consider convenience foods.”  

In short, foods that are high in salt, sugar, unhealthy fat and additives are generally ultra-processed. Think foods with a very long shelf life whether those foods are main course or snacks. Dr. Manning said, “Even low calorie chips or crackers or cookies versus something like whole fruit, nuts, things like minimally processed yogurts, cheese… those things might actually be potentially sabotaging their diet.”

Ultra-processed foods may often be cheaper, but they’re calorie dense and nutrient poor which is good for neither your waistline nor your health. “I think the most important takeaway from this particular study is that the more you can get to the whole form of the food the better it will be for you,” said Dr. Manning who urges you to check the ingredients label on food and beverages. If you see something unfamiliar, it’s likely ultra-processed. And if it’s convenience you want, consider healthy options like frozen fish, veggies and whole grain pasta which can be cooked up in a matter of minutes.

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