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The Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods on Metabolic Health

Ultra-processed foods, onion rings, soda, burgers, candy, donuts, sweets, fries, chips, processed food, chocolate bars, chocolate, cookies

Ultra-Processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) have become increasingly prevalent in our modern diets. These foods, characterized by their industrial formulations and extensive processing, include items like sugary snacks, sausages, and sweetened beverages. But what impact do these foods have on our health? A recent study sheds light on the association between UPF consumption and metabolic diseases.

Understanding Metabolic Diseases

Metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and obesity, affect millions of people worldwide. They result from abnormal metabolic processes that impact organs, tissues, or cells. While genetic factors play a small role, environmental factors—especially diet—also contribute significantly.

What Are Ultra-Processed Foods?

The NOVA food classification system defines UPFs as foods created from extracted substances, additives, and minimal intact food. These products undergo significant industrial processing and often contain high levels of added sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives.

The Study

Researchers conducted an umbrella review, analyzing 13 meta-analyses to assess the relationship between UPF consumption and metabolic diseases. Here are the key findings:

  1. Obesity Risk: The highest level of UPF consumption was associated with a 1.55-fold higher risk of obesity. This finding was consistent across seven cross-sectional studies and several prospective cohort studies.

  2. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM): UPF consumption was also linked to an increased risk of T2DM. While the exact mechanism remains unclear, the evidence suggests that reducing UPF intake could benefit metabolic health.

Implications and Recommendations

Healthcare professionals and policymakers should consider these findings when formulating dietary guidelines. Encouraging individuals to reduce their consumption of UPFs may help prevent obesity and T2DM. Here are some practical steps:

  • Read Labels: Be mindful of food labels. UPFs often contain long ingredient lists with unfamiliar additives.

  • Cook at Home: Preparing meals from whole, minimally processed ingredients allows you to control what goes into your food.

  • Choose Whole Foods: Opt for fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins over packaged and processed options.


While more research is needed to confirm these associations, this study suggests that a high UPF consumption is linked to metabolic diseases. As we strive for better health, understanding the impact of our food choices is crucial. Let’s prioritize whole, nourishing foods and limit our reliance on ultra-processed options.

Remember, your plate is a canvas for good health—choose wisely!

Dr. Dani Ruf, Chiropractor, Meraki Chiropractic PLLC, 08Feb2024


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