What is UPF? Ultra-processed foods, that’s it, and this latest entry in our modern abridged lexicon is likely to stick around for a while – kind of like that bag of salted caramel pretzels (just an example of UPF) on my hips. .
The reason is that health professionals now want us to differentiate between simply “processed” foods and UPF foods – foods that have been heavily industrialized. Some are obvious, like a cheese Wotsit, miraculously transformed from a kernel of corn into a puff the size of a thumb. But UPF also includes industrially produced bread, soy milk and other milk substitutes, breakfast cereals and baked beans.
This latest inclusion in particular has set food manufacturers on fire because they point out that baked beans are a good source of protein and fiber and are relatively low in sugar and fat – although ingredients such as “flour of modified corn “and the high dose of artificial sweeteners in the lower sugar versions are less uplifting.
Treatment is not necessarily a bad thing. Technically, processed foods are simply foods that have undergone a change – that has been processed, in fact – that may simply be to make them more digestible, or safer, or to preserve them. This can too, as Kate Halliwell, Scientific Director of the Food and Drink Federation recently pointed out in a letter to The telegraph, be “used to improve the nutritional value of foods”.
So when wheat is ground and sifted to make white flour, it is a process. When fortified with calcium, iron, B vitamins (mandatory in UK) and made into a pasta, these are two other processes. And when it’s dried, that’s another process. When you boil it at home, it’s yet another process. Some definitions include chewing – when you eat the pasta – and harvesting the grain as additional processes that complete the journey from the field to the stomach.
Nonetheless, health experts are convinced that UPF is generally problematic, and certainly not something we should be eating every day. The definition of a UPF dates back to 2009, when the NOVA classification system (see below) was first developed by the University of São Paulo in Brazil. Foods are divided into four categories – unprocessed or minimally processed, culinary ingredients, processed, and ultra-processed – based on how the food is used and the amount of tinkering it has undergone during production.
It is not without controversy, however. Nutrition experts point out that certain foods classified as highly nutritious, earning an “A” rating in the French Nutri-Score system (which is similar to the traffic light system seen on UK food packaging and the current favorite to be adopted throughout the world. EU) are labeled as ultra-processed (bad) by the NOVA classification. Others insist that Nutri-Score is too simplistic, without additives or industrial processing.
It’s more than a storm in a Pot Noodle. While the anti-NOVA squad argues that no allocation is made in classifying protein levels, for example, evidence is mounting that UPF is the root cause of the crisis that has seen obesity tripling worldwide since 1975. Here in the UK, more than one in four adults is clinically obese, and in Europe only Turkey and Malta are above us in the rankings.
Some readers will roll their eyes and say it is a matter of personal responsibility. And, yes, we are probably eating too much and not exercising enough. No one is saying that eating a whole tube of Pringles (oh yeah, I could) is healthier than a roast dinner, but since both are about 1,000 calories, they will surely have the same effect on our waistlines. A calorie is a calorie, right?
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This notice was published: 2021-06-30 07:57:15