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Are ready meals to blame for the increasing number of overweight people?
The supermarket shelves are filled to the brim with heavily processed ready meals. From pizza to packet soup - around half of the products fall into this category. With the increasing supply of ready meals, the number of overweight people in Germany increases. A current study now shows why: So-called ultra-processed foods make people eat more, eat faster and put on more weight.
The recent study by the U.S. National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases found that eating ultra-processed foods has a major impact on our weight because we eat more of them and eat them faster compared to normal foods. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "Cell Metabolism".
Strong weight gain in a short time
When people consumed ultra-processed foods, they consumed an average of 500 more calories a day. This resulted in them gaining two pounds (1 kg) in weight in just two weeks. The study looked closely at the food intake and health of the participants. During the study, each group of participants received three meals a day, which included drinks and snacks.
Healthy eating led to weight loss
For the study, half of the participants took a diet made from ultra-processed foods. The other half of the participants consumed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Meals were as balanced as possible and every calorie counted. During the study period, the participants in the group with a healthy and balanced diet lost weight.
Ultra-processed foods make people eat more
The authors of the study were quite surprised by this result because they had actually assumed that if ingredients like sugar, fat, carbohydrates, protein and sodium were coordinated with each other in both forms of diet, people would have no reason through ultra-processed foods to eat more. However, it was found that the people in the ultra-processed group actually consumed a lot more calories. This caused them to gain weight and body fat.
The researchers concluded that processed foods favor obesity. In the study, the so-called NOVA system for food classification was used, with which food is classified on the basis of its flavor-enhancing additives, preservatives that extend shelf life, as well as its packaging and marketing characteristics. Both forms of nutrition examined contained the same amount of calories, sugar, fiber, fat and carbohydrates, and participants were able to eat as much or as little as they wanted. After two weeks, the groups changed diets and the same patterns of overeating and weight gain were observed.
More research is needed
Both groups stated that they enjoyed the food, suggesting that something other than taste made the difference. Further research in the future will focus on understanding this cause. The increased food intake could be a result of certain additives that, for example, disrupt the release of hunger hormones. The study shows how difficult it can be for less wealthy people to stick to nutritional recommendations. The processed diet cost a third less than the healthy diet with unprocessed food. (as)