Eating highly processed foods may lead to consuming more calories, according to a new study published by the National Institute of Health.
Researchers provided a group of 20 men and women with meals for a month. These meals contained similar amounts of fats, carbohydrate, and protein, but some contained highly processed foods while others did not. Participants were told to eat as much as they wanted, and the NIH tracked their caloric intake.
The study found that participants eating meals with processed food consumed an extra 500 calories a day compared to those eating non-processed meals. The NIH researchers suggest that avoiding “ultra-processed foods” could be “an effective strategy for obesity and treatment.”
Other studies, quoted by the NIH researchers, have suggested ultra-processed foods may “facilitate overeating” because they generally have such high levels of calories, salt, sugar, and fat. One study claims processed foods are designed to have “supernormal appetitive properties” that can result in a pathological eating behavior.
The NIH study notes that there is “public confusion” as to what diets are actually best for the body’s health. It attributes some of this confusion to disagreement between “factions” of “the perpetual diet wars.”
“While debate rages about the relative merits and demerits of various so-called healthy diets,” the authors write, “less attention is paid to the fact that otherwise diverse diet recommendations often share a common piece of advice: avoid ultra-processed foods.”
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