A Critical Review on Ultra-processed Foods - Toxic and Addictive View PDF

*Ramireddy Sulekha
Medicine, Malla Reddy Institute Of Medical Sciences, Malla Reddy Institute Of Medical Sciences, Osmania University, Telangana, India

*Corresponding Author:
Ramireddy Sulekha
Medicine, Malla Reddy Institute Of Medical Sciences, Malla Reddy Institute Of Medical Sciences, Osmania University, Telangana, India

Published on: 2024-05-17


There have been many public health crises in the past (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, opioids, cholera, HIV, lead, pollution, venereal disease, even Coronavirus (COVID-19)) that have been addressed both individually and collectively. Healthcare professionals are well aware that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) have their origins in our Western ultra-processed food diet, but society has been slow to take any other steps than public education, which has been ineffective because of food industry interference. By aggregating the evidence for such public health interventions, this article provides the rationale for regulating added sugar, as well as ultra-processed foods, based on four criteria set by the public health community as necessary and sufficient for regulation - abuse, toxicity, ubiquity, and externalities. Several countries have recently implemented sugar taxation policies to help ameliorate NCDs within their borders, which is to their credit. To quell this pandemic, this article also provides scientific counterpoints to food industry talking points and sample intervention strategies.


Processed food; Nutrition; Non-communicable disease; Metabolic syndrome; Diabetes; Addiction; Policy

Introduction: Pandemics and Public Health

There are two pandemics going on at the same time. COVID-19 pandemic began in January 2020. In spite of media attention and warnings from scientists, many countries are experiencing a “second wave”; here in the United States (US), we never even cleared the first wave. We have no cure, at least not yet; all we can do is to mitigate the pandemic by keeping a safe distance, washing hands, and wearing face masks, all of which don’t seem to work very well voluntarily [1, 2]. In the second pandemic, NCDs (type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, fatty liver disease, hypertension, heart attack, stroke, cancer, and dementia) have slowly built over the past 50 years. We also do not have a cure for this pandemic; all we have is education, like voluntary “diet and exercise,” which does not seem to work very well either.

The number of deaths and health care dollars related to NCDs have increased to 72% in the US and 75% globally; and the morbidity, mortality, and economic costs are also increasing. As a result of both the loss of economic productivity and increased healthcare expenditures, Medicare and social security are expected to run out of money by 2026 and 2034, respectively [3-5]. Old and infirm people cannot be taken out of the system without young and healthy people paying for it. United Nation has declared NCDs a global health crisis, and the cost of these diseases is not limited to the US. In other words, each country, as well as the entire planet, faces an existential threat from NCDs [6]. A key component of mitigating NCDs is identifying their causes and implementing upstream policy measures.

Two other chronic disease pandemics have recently hit the world, ethanol, and tobacco. Both are caused by hedonic substances readily available for purchase, and both respond to public health regulatory interventions [7]. We saw a reduction in cigarette consumption and lung cancer only after the US’s Master Settlement Agreement and the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Alcohol ethanol regulations have been passed in individual countries with clear improvements in public health.

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