The first trial for assessing the impact of ultra processed foods on weight gain suggest that ultra-processed foods make people to eat more and thereby result in weight gain.
Volunteers were monitored for every bit of food that they ate for a month. It was found that when they were given ultra-processed foods, there was an intake of 500 calories extra than when they ate unprocessed foods. According to the US National Institutes of Health, the hunger hormones might be affected by the ultra-processed foods which made people to eat more and more. Dr. Kevin Hall, the lead researcher compared ultra-processed food to pornography and said that it was difficult to give a definition but then one will understand when one sees it. The main warning signs to identify these types of food are to see for ingredients which are hard to pronounce, a list containing more than 5 ingredients and lastly any such thing which our grandmothers would not suggest as a food.
The people were monitored for over a month where they were given only ultra-processed foods or unprocessed meals for one half of the study and then in the second half of the study their diets were switched. The participants were allowed to eat all that they wanted and they were monitored by the researchers. When they were having ultra-processed foods, they had gained 1kg as they had an intake of extra 508calories per day. Dr. Hall said that ultra-processed food led to an increased intake of calories which resulted in subsequent weight gain and fat. It was found from the study that levels of ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone, came down when people were given unprocessed meals.
The application of this study on a broader range is not possible as it was conducted on a small number of people and for a very short time. Dr. Gunther Kuhnle, University of Reading said that food processing was important for edibility, preservation and safety. Another interesting aspect of the study was the cost-per-energy. The unprocessed diet was costly compared to the ultra-processed foods and as far as the health point of view is considered this may have some implications.