Nutritionists advocate healthy eating. Unfortunately, most millennials, particularly students and those in white color jobs, prefer eating processed foods because they are easy to prepare. Moreover, they are readily available and pocket-friendly. Bray claims that every time a person consumes processed food, he/she develops complications (222). One may feel tired, develop sickness or even get bloated. Research shows that the ingredients used in processed foods contribute to people not being able to resist the meals (Bray 224). Most junk foods contain high fructose corn syrup, which makes them addictive.
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It is misleading to call processed products “foods” as they do not have any nutritional value to the body. Endocrinologists argue that the manufacturers of processed foods trade human health for profit (Bray 225). The foods lack micronutrients and dietary fibers, which are essential to human body. Extensive consumption of processed food and high fructose corn syrup exposes people to the dangers of contracting illnesses such as heart disease, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancers. This paper will discuss the various complications associated with consumption of processed foods and high fructose corn syrup.
Constituents of Processed Foods
Understanding what comprises processed foods will result in people having precise knowledge of the dangers that they expose themselves to when they consume them. Moubarac et al. argue that there are varieties of processed foods, which include frozen berries and home-canned tomatoes among others (2241). Products that undergo limited processing can still be helpful to the body. They include “virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and raw apple cider vinegar” (Moubarac et al. 2243).
On the other hand, ultra-processed foods have no nutritional value to the body. They include hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners. According to Moubarac et al., processed foods contain numerous non-food additives (2243). Some constituents of processed foods include solvents, synthetic vitamins, and bleaching and alkalizing agents. Some of the additives pose a significant danger to human health.
Loss of Nutrients
Food processing results in the loss of many vital fibers and nutrients that facilitate digestion. For example, when brown rice is converted to white, it loses essential fibers, making it difficult for the body to metabolize. Moubarac et al. aver, “blood sugar spikes more rapidly because the fibers that slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream have been removed” (2244). Apart from the loss of fibers, processing of brown rice results in the removal of minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals found in the outer part of the rice grains. Prolonged consumption of processed foods can deprive the body of essential nutrients that enable it to function appropriately. Thus, doctors encourage people to consume processed foods reasonably. Moreover, they warn against eating gluten-rich fast foods.
Complications from Processed Foods
Risk of Developing Cancer
The fast-paced contemporary lifestyles coupled with witty promotional techniques of the food industry often lure people to purchase processed foods more frequently than it is recommended. Nutritionists do not prohibit people from consuming processed foods. Nevertheless, they warn that excessive eating of the products may have adverse impacts on health, thus the need to moderate their intake. Feskens et al. claims that processed foods are rich in sugar, fat and calories (301).
Hence, high ingestion of the products exposes one to the danger of being overweight or suffering from obesity. Studies show that obesity is among the risk factors associated with cancer (Feskens et al. 301). As per Feskens et al., a 10% increase in the consumption of processed foods raises the possibility of individual developing cancer by 12% (303). A study conducted in the United Kingdom found that some additives used to prepare food are carcinogenic, thus exposing people to the risk of developing cancer.
Meat consumption has nutritional values, which include vitamin B, iron, and protein. However, eating processed meat is harmful to one’s health. Feskens et al. define processed meat as “any animal product that has gone through a treatment process to extend shelf life and/or change color and flavor” (303). People preserve meat through smoking, curing, and salting. Examples of processed meat include bacon, ham, bologna, salami, hot dogs, corned beef, and sausage.
The products are manufactured through the use of sugar, salt, and nitrates. Feskens et al. allege that the nitrates help to prevent the development of harmful food-borne diseases like botulism (305). What the manufacturers fail to consider is that the nitrates are transformed into nitrosamines, which cause cancer. Research has shown that individuals who consume processed meat are at risk of contracting colorectal and stomach cancers (Feskens et al. 305). Apart from nitrates, processed meat contains a high amount of sodium. Lofty ingestion of dietary sodium leads to people suffering from high blood pressure. In return, it exposes them to the dangers of contracting heart disease or stroke.
The studies indicate that sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup worsens internal swellings and joint pains. According to Monteiro et al., irritation can occur in the form of fever, headaches, and various cold symptoms (23). Processed dairy products and gluten contribute to inflammation. The foods are rich in processed starch, canola oil, and sugar that cause swelling. Doctors recommend consumption of anti-inflammatory foods like organic vegetables, slow-cooked whole grains, broccoli, raw organic berries, wild salmon, cherries, and small quantities of sustainably-raised meat (Monteiro et al. 25).
It helps to minimize irritation by ensuring that the immune system keeps the body still and balanced. Processed foods affect the immune system hindering its ability to respond to viruses and toxic bacteria. Monteiro et al. maintain that consumption of processed foods and reduces the alert signals of the body (27). It becomes hard for the system to detect and react to attacks by harmful bacteria or viruses.
Complications from Processed Foods and High Fructose Corn Syrup
Obesity and Diabetes
Many processed foods contain high levels of fructose corn syrup, which leads to people getting hungry soon after eating. Individuals who depend on processed foods tend to eat frequently. In return, they consume more food than their body can burn off, leading to them gaining weight. DiNicolantonio et al. maintain that high fructose corn syrup triggers appetite-controlling hormones, resulting in individuals craving for more food (374).
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirmed that high fructose corn syrup inhibits the prompt of leptin secretion or insulin production (DiNicolantonio et al. 377). Consequently, it becomes hard for the body to regulate food intake and weight gain. In other words, consumption of fructose contributes to high energy intake. DiNicolantonio et al. aver that the body changes fructose from processed foods to fat before it is utilized (378).
However, high fructose corn syrup is usually in high quantity in most processed foods, making it difficult for the body to refine it correctly. Eventually, the fructose remains as excess fat, exposing people to the risk of becoming obese. Obesity is one of the risk factors of a myriad of diseases such as heart problems and diabetes. Research shows that nations, which consume high fructose corn syrup record many cases of type 2 diabetes (DiNicolantonio et al. 380). The disease is prevalent in the United States where the average person eats at least 55 pounds of high fructose corn syrup annually.
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Exposure to Toxins
It is not just the absence of essential nutrients that leads to processed foods being harmful to our bodies. Chung et al. argue that the foods contain toxic ingredients that can result in health complications (837). At least 74% of the processed foods found in groceries contain high fructose corn syrup, which contributes to the development of fatty liver disease (Chung et al. 841). Moreover, they have high levels of salt that expose people to the risk of developing kidney problems and high blood pressure.
Processed foods and high fructose corn syrup comprise emulsifiers, which are mostly detergents. Chung et al. claim that the detergents inhibit the separation of fat and water contributing to poisoning (843). Researchers in environmental health posit that at least 45% of the commercial high fructose corn syrups contain traces of mercury, which is a deadly toxin (Chung et al. 844). In spite of variations in the amount of mercury in various products, extensive consumption of mercury-containing processed foods can cause severe health complications.
Memory Loss and Dementia
Research conducted in the United States found that individuals who ate processed foods or high fructose corn syrup for at least five consecutive days exhibited cognitive problems. The researchers concluded that consuming processed foods consistently for just five days could impair one’s memory. Monteiro et al. claim that processed foods and high fructose corn syrup stimulate chemical reactions that results in the swelling of the hippocampus region of the brain that is allied to special recognition and recollection (28).
Processed foods contain fat and sugar, which limit the activity of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that facilitates learning and memory formation. Moubarac et al. argue that brains comprise synapses that are helpful in memory and learning (2246). Excessive consumption of calories can obstruct healthy generation and performance of the synapses. The correlation between junk foods and dementia is one of the terrifying discoveries attributed to eating processed products.
Moubarac et al. claim that brains generate insulin that aids in memory creation and signal transmission amid nerve cells (2247). Research shows that consumption of processed foods and high fructose corn syrup leads to increased amount of insulin in the body (Moubarac et al. 2248). The high level of insulin results in brains becoming resistant. In return, it affects one’s ability to recall, think or establish memories.
Numerous studies have proved that processed foods and high fructose corn syrup have adverse impacts on health. They do not only cause heart disease but also expose people to the risk of becoming obese and developing cancer. Scientists have concluded that prolonged consumption of processed food can lead to brain damage. The most significant concern is that people continue to purchase and eat processed products and high fructose corn syrup despite knowing their health effects. Increased intake of fast foods deprives the body of essential nutrients. Individuals who rely on processed foods have weak immunity and are prone to diseases.
Nutritionists recommend that it is imperative to consider the ingredients contained in processed products before buying them. Eating processed foods without high fructose corn syrup may not have adverse effects on one’s health. Nonetheless, it is advisable to keep away from processed food. Instead, people should eat a diet that is high in whole grain.
Bray, George. “Energy and Fructose from Beverages Sweetened with Sugar or High-Fructose Corn Syrup Pose a Health Risk for some People.” Advances in Nutrition, vol. 4, no. 2, 2013, pp. 220-225.
Chung, Mei, et al. “Fructose, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Sucrose, and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease or Indexes of Liver Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 100, no. 3, 2014, pp. 833-849.
DiNicolantonio, James, et al. “Added Fructose: A principle Driver of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and its Consequences.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 90, no. 3, 2015, pp. 372-381.
Feskens, Edith J, et al. Meat Consumption, Diabetes, and Its Complications.” Current Diabetes Reports, vol. 13, no. 2, 2013, pp. 298-306.
Monteiro, Carlos, et al. “Ultra-Processed Products are Becoming Dominant in the Global Food System.” Obesity Reviews, vol. 14, no. S2, 2013, pp. 21-28.
Moubarac, Jean-Claude, et al. “Consumption of Ultra-Processed Foods and Likely Impacts on Human Health. Evidence from Canada.” Public Health Nutrition, vol. 16, no. 12, 2013, pp. 2240-2248.