An original study establishes a link between the consumption of highly processed food products and future weight gain and obesity in middle-aged adults.
It is a well-known fact that obesity is a global issue and that the proportion of obese individuals is growing. Unfortunately, obesity is also being inadvertently promoted due to the abundance and relentless advertising of highly processed foods often referred to as ready-to-heat or ready-to-eat foods. Highly processed foods can be defined as food and beverage products containing a minimal or nonexistent amount of whole foods, and products manufactured with additives and synthesized chemicals that increase shelf life and taste. Innumerable research has indicated that an association exists between obesity and eating certain foods such as desserts, fries, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Despite this, a limited number of prospective studies (where participants are followed for a period of time) have investigated the relationship between the consumption of highly processed foods and the risk of eventual obesity or becoming overweight. The researchers aimed to fill this research gap by following a cohort of middle-aged university graduates and having them fill out a dietary questionnaire, the primary outcome was the frequency of eating or drinking highly processed foods or drinks.
Of the 8451 participants in the study, the researchers observed a total of 1939 new cases of obesity and becoming overweight at follow-up. Elevated body mass index (BMI) levels were observed in participants who consumed the largest amount of highly processed foods. There was also an increased probability that these individuals ate foods with higher energy and fat content, watched television for longer durations of time, and were smoking presently. The subjects who consumed the most highly processed foods also had negligible fiber and protein intake levels when compared to those who consumed the least processed foods.
The researchers regard this study as the first prospective study analyzing the potential connection between the consumption of highly processed food products and the future development of obesity and an increased BMI. These study results indicate that, among a middle-aged cohort of otherwise healthy Spanish adults, consuming an excess amount of highly processed foods may increase the likelihood of becoming obese or overweight in the future.
Written By: Melissa Booker