What Are The Health Risks Of Eating Processed Foods

Health Risks Of Eating Processed Foods

Various types of processed foods ranging from nuggets to burgers are indeed very difficult to refuse. Seeing the pictures displayed in the window displays of several fast-food restaurants can make you tempted to swallow. However, these types of fast foods have potential health risks, controlling yourself and resisting them can save your life. 

For decades there has been a global boom in the consumption of processed foods, due to the change in the paradigm in food intake, the ease of obtaining them, and their rapid preparation, as well as their constant appearance in the media. 

However, this type of food is the cause of a large number of diseases and health damages. The increasingly rapid pace of life in modern societies has favored the increase in the commercialization and consumption of this type of food, despite the fact that they are not healthy products. 

In this article, we will detail what processed foods are, what their properties are, and what risks they entail for the human body - especially if they are consumed very regularly.  

What Is Processed Food?

Processed food or what is commonly called ready-to-eat food has undergone several processing processes such as fried, heated, boiled, baked, frozen, packaged, or even preserved. Processed or ultra-processed foods are those that do not appear in their natural state but have been subjected to a modification of their properties through industrial procedures. 

This type of processing that food is subjected to can change its state, its physical appearance, and even its nutritional composition. Of course, this is done for various purposes, mainly so that the food tastes better or lasts longer. This ready-to-eat food is easily available at various food outlets around you, with a presentation that is so appetizing.  

The Dangers of Processed Foods 

In addition to fulfilling the tongue's desire, processed food is certainly also filling. Sadly, this snack turns out to have various bad effects on your health. The following are among them: 

1. Additives

Processed foods are normally obtained by adding a series of elements outside the original food known as "additives." Some of these additives are colorants, preservatives, modifiers, and flavorings; we will define each of these products below.


A.   Colorants

Food dyes make up one of the groups of additives best known to society in general. These types of additives are usually artificial, although there are some natural colorants.

These additives are normally used by food companies to give the uniqueness of their products by adding a specific color, which in most cases does not provide nutritionally or other benefits to the food. They are usually classified with codes that begin with the letter, E and some of them are highly harmful to health, as is the case of the dyes E-102, E-104, E-110 and E-120

B.   Preservatives

Preservatives are additives used precisely to preserve the physical and nutritional properties of processed foods. Companies use them in their products to prevent the appearance of microorganisms in the food produced, as well as to prevent its deterioration. Preservatives, like dyes, can be harmful to health and are similarly registered with the letter E and a subsequent code. The preservatives less indicated for the health of the organism are E-210, E-211 E-212, and E-213.


C.   Modifiers

The modifying processes to which processed foods are subjected are varied. Some typical examples are the increase and decrease of its temperature or the alteration of its physical form, its appearance, and its internal properties.


D.   Flavors

Food flavorings are natural or artificial elements that are added to food to enhance its taste and smell or to give it other aromas and flavors different from those of natural ingredients. 

2. High In Sugar And Calories

When thinking about ready-to-eat food, don't just refer to food in fast-food restaurants. These ready-to-eat foods also include chips, soda, cookies, candy, french fries, burgers, pizza, baked goods, and all high-calorie foods that are low in nutrition. This type of food is processed food which for most people is the main source of calories or carbohydrates. 

Not to mention, flour-based food products have a high glycemic index, especially when accompanied by added sweeteners. This content will flood the bloodstream with glucose which then causes a spike in blood sugar so that it can trigger diabetes mellitus and all its very dangerous complications. The glucose spike will cause a high amount of insulin and trigger the growth of fat cells, increase cell replication and tumor growth.  

3. Contains Excess Salt

Processed foods are also synonymous with excessive salt and flavor for the reason that it adds flavor. If salt or sodium levels accumulate, fat will be bound and cause weight gain, high cholesterol levels, or plaque buildup in blood vessels. In addition, this will also affect the elasticity of blood vessels. Sadly, if it continues, there will be high blood pressure or hypertension, high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), and coronary heart disease in the future. 

4. Contains Carcinogenic Compounds

Baked foods are usually rich in acrylamide compounds, which are believed to be cancer-promoting or carcinogenic factors. In some studies, this has led to the medical fact that acrylamide influences the genetic expression of cancer-causing agents.

Excessive amounts of animal protein in some types of junk food such as burgers or sandwiches are claimed to trigger excessive insulin-1 (IGF-1) hormone. This can lead to premature aging or impaired nerve conductive function, impair cell detoxification and repair, and increase the risk of cancer. 

Health Risks: Associated Diseases with Processed Foods 
We have discussed the characteristics that make processed foods highly demanded, consumed, and addictive for a large part of the world's population. However, it is important to highlight the risks of consuming processed or industrial foods on a regular basis.

Eating processed or ultra-processed foods regularly can lead to serious health problems for consumers.

There are at least 5 risks if you eat processed foods too often.

1.     Obesity 

Research has not clearly concluded that processed foods directly cause obesity. But there is a link between eating processed foods too often and gaining weight. Eating too much processed food can lead to obesity. 

A December 2017 analysis published in Current Obesity Reports shows that four out of five studies reviewed concluded that consumption of processed foods can increase the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure as well as increases in total and (harmful) LDL cholesterol. Researchers are still unable to determine whether the risk of obesity increases due to processed foods or because of the nutritional content of processed foods. 

2.     Cancer 

Processed meats such as nuggets, sausages, and corned beef, sausages have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies processed foods as carcinogens which are also confirmed by the American Cancer Society (ACS). 

These meats have been marinated, fermented, or smoked as a way to increase shelf life or taste. Meanwhile, a January 2018 cohort study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that eating processed foods is often associated with cancer, one of which is the risk of breast cancer.

3.     Stroke 

A July 2015 paper published in Strokes suggested that there is a link between processed foods especially meat and an increased risk of stroke. Too often eating processed foods is so high in sodium, which has been linked to an increased risk of stroke. Sodium can raise your blood pressure while potassium can lower it. 

When blood pressure increases, blood flow through the arteries is restricted and once blood flow to the brain is blocked, it can lead to a stroke. Moreover, high cholesterol levels can cause blood clots, which can also block blood flow to the brain. In addition, processed foods may also be high in trans fats such as partially hydrogenated oils that can contribute to high cholesterol, heart attack, and stroke risk.

4.     Heart Disease 

High blood pressure and stroke go hand in hand with cardiovascular disease. Like the relationship between sodium and stroke, consuming high amounts of sodium can also play a role in triggering heart problems. Processed foods that contain trans fats can also increase the risk. A May 2019 study in the BMJ found that high consumption of processed foods is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

5.     Early Death 

Recent research shows consumption of unhealthy processed foods can increase the risk of premature death. In a February 2019 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looking at more than 44,000 middle-aged people in France increased consumption of processed foods was associated with a higher risk of death. Furthermore, a May 2019 study in the BMJ found that the higher consumption of processed foods, the 62 percent risk of death. These processed foods should be avoided so that you can live longer.  

Tips for Safe Eating of Processed Food 

Even if you wanted to, it would be very difficult to eliminate all highly processed foods from your diet. That would mean skipping most restaurants and skipping hot dogs at a family-friendly barbecue. Processed or fast food does not always mean bad things. When you are more careful and wise in consuming it, the health risks that will arise will also be smaller. 

However, there are many things you can do to reduce the number of processed foods you eat: 

Check the label: The longer the ingredient list, the more processed food will be. While most of the ingredients are hard-to-pronounce chemicals rather than real foods, the foods are likely heavily processed. 

Shop in the outside aisles of the grocery store: The center aisles of most grocery stores are filled with packaged items and prepared foods that are heavily processed. Try to buy more food in the dairy and produce aisles. 

Opt for minimally processed meats: Choose meats that have been minimally processed (eg, seafood, chicken breast) and avoid highly processed meats (eg, hot dogs, cold cuts such as bacon). The World Health Organization (WHO) urges people to reduce their consumption of processed meat. The appeal was given because the consumption of processed meat increases your risk of developing certain types of cancer. 

Start slowly: The eating habits that are very difficult for you to break. It is okay to slowly replace processed foods in your diet with fresher foods. In fact, it can make you more likely to stick with these long-term changes. 

Prepare more meals at home: You may not always be in control of your diet while traveling, but you are at home. Make your own frozen meals by cooking more and freezing leftovers or making your own salad dressing.

The following are some tips for consuming processed foods that you can apply to avoid the risk of various dangerous diseases: 

·        Combine processed foods with foods high in nutrients that are rich in fiber and vitamins.

·        Avoid eating processed foods too often, it's better to start cooking your own food.

·        Check the number of calories, glucose levels, sodium, and other nutritional content listed on packaged ready-to-eat or processed foods before buying or consuming them.

·        Always check the expiration date every time you eat packaged processed food. 

Processed foods are known to be very harmful to health. Therefore, start limiting your intake, and replace it with a diet rich in nutrients that are high in fiber and vitamins.

For any other types of suggestions and questions on this topic, you can connect with us through the comment box below. 

Disclaimer:  Only generic information is provided in this content and this is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult your own doctor or a specialist for more information.  Please check with your doctor if you are on any prescription medications. Some foods and supplements may interfere with certain medications. HEALTHY and FITNESS do not claim responsibility for this information.

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