When digital TV arrived about 30 years ago, broadcasters embraced ultrahigh frequency transmission for cable and the airwaves, revolutionizing the way we receive our in-home entertainment. Unfortunately, that was about the same time ultraprocessed (UP) foods took over Americans’ shopping carts, and the combo set the stage for an expanding (literally) audience of couch potatoes to munch their way through endless bags of chips and bottles of cola while watching super-fit superheroes dance across their screens in high-def.
Now the alarm is sounding: Those UP manufactured foods are, says a study in BMJ Open, “substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations.” UP foods also contain emulsifiers, sugars and syrups like high fructose corn syrup, preservatives (BHT, BHA), flavoring agents and unhealthy fats like palm oil. Or to put it another way: UP foods are fake foods.
What are the risks? UP foods are dramatically shortening your life (shortening and partially hydrogenated oils will do that). In fact, folks who eat four or more servings a day of UP foods have a 62% higher all-cause mortality rate than those eating the least amount (less than two servings daily), according to a 15-year BMJ study. A recent JAMA Internal Medicine study says that every 10% increase in intake of UP foods pushes your risk of death from all causes way up. In the U.S., our intake of UP foods is an astounding 58% of total calories and accounts for almost 90% of all added sugars consumed.
No wonder almost 800,000 Americans have a heart attack every year; 1,762,450 new cancer cases are diagnosed annually; 3 million folks have inflammatory bowel disease, 30 million have diabetes (the vast majority with Type 2) and a staggering 84 million have prediabetes. Most don’t know they have it, and in over three to five years 25% will develop full-blown Type 2 diabetes.
To give you an idea of just how addicted to UP food we are: There are 25,000 doughnut shops in the U.S. cranking out 10 billion doughnuts a year — enough to circle Earth 13 times. Around 200 million Americas ate frozen pizza in 2018.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.