The Problem with Processed Food


The obesity epidemic is one of the fastest growing problems in our modern society, and in my opinion, it is not being taken seriously enough. The amount of diseases and deaths caused by obesity, namely heart disease, and type 2 diabetes are one of the biggest killers in the world today, with over 600,000 deaths due to heart disease just in America, that’s 1 in 4 of all deaths.

An even more surprising statistic is that 1 in 5 children in the world are obese. Countless amount of research has shown that being overweight as a child can lead to serious health problems in later life, this is very concerning, as these children are the future of the next generation. In the USA, obesity costs the healthcare system around 191 billion dollars last year, this is round 21% of the healthcare budget.

This problem is one that has arisen very recently, and leading studies show that it is mainly because of our increasingly processed diet and lack of exercise, due to living in an urbanised area and not using our bodies as our ancestors would, i.e. farming or manual labour. But experts say, that even without exercise, we could still lead a long and healthy life, but we would have to drastically change our diets, and the main thing we would have to cut down on in is processed foods, namely those with a lot of sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

But what is the problem with processed foods, you say? Well, firstly by processed foods I mean chemically processed foods, because technically all foods are processed in some way such as tomatoes are crushed and cooked to make a pasta sauce.

Processed foods, use chemicals as texturants, to add texture, colourants, to add colour and mainly flavourings to give flavour. The food has these chemicals added to it because it mainly contains low quality, and unhealthy ingredients which have been processed so much that they do not resemble or taste what they were made from, thus they need to be altered to make it appetising to us, the consumer. Companies do this, because it is much cheaper to use bad ingredients rather than to use quality ingredients in their food.

Companies also take advantage of our human nature to profit from, by this I mean our nature to be attracted to foods with a high fat and carbohydrate content, because we evolved to like these foods as they were high in energy, and in the past when food was scarce, they would have kept us going for longer. Therefore, companies cram their processed foods with fats and simple carbohydrates to make us want it, and by using simple carbohydrates, they are sneakily using the fact that simple carbs causes a spike in our blood sugar, that quickly drops soon after, making us crave the food again, and eat more of it.

And the problem with eating a lot of fats in our diet, are because they can cause heart disease and cholesterol, namely trans fats and vegetable oils. Simple carbohydrates also increase your chance of contracting type 2 diabetes greatly.

But without a doubt, the most harmful substance that is in almost all heavily processed foods, is high fructose corn syrup. This is said to be the “worst thing to put in your body”, and with reason. HFCS is an alternative sweetener that is processed in a way that fructose is removed from the glucose it normally binds to, allowing the fructose to directly enter your body, and when this is processed by your liver it starts heavy fat production, called lipogenesis. This fat build up leads to the leading disease in America, fatty liver, and can increase your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke massively.

HFCS has also been found to have traces of mercury in its production, and this has adverse effects to your brain function, and is especially dangerous to younger children, who’s brains are in the development stage. And it’s not just sweet foods that have HFCS put into it, in processed foods, it is added nearly everywhere as a flavour enhancer. So next time you are going to buy sugar free drink, think again, as it is probably healthier to drink a version with sugar, although this isn’t a good idea either.

Also, companies have a cunning way as to how to sell you the processed food that they make, such as by saying that it contains “whole grains”, this could mean that they started out with a grain, but by the time that they have crushed it to a powder and chemically enhanced it, it is nowhere near a whole grain. This goes to show how little there is in food standards as companies are allowed to trick people like this, but then again high fructose corn syrup is still being used widely, so how could we trust food safety standards?

It surprised me as to how simple this ‘epidemic’ of obesity could be to solve, but shows how far people will go just to make a profit, even if it is at a cost to millions of people’s lives.