How Processed Foods Affect Our Health

Multiple concerns have been recently raised about processed foods, including the profusion of processed foods and the threats they pose. Recent research has demonstrated that more than 60% of the food purchased annually in the US is highly processed.

Processed foods are the items that dominate the centre aisles of any typical grocery store including:

  • Sausages
  • Hot dogs
  • Bacon
  • Ready-made meals
  • Cereal
  • Canned goods
  • Chips
  • Soda
  • Candy and other packaged items
  • Cookies

The majority of processed foods are high in sugar content and other harmful ingredients that might trigger lots of health problems. Here are 5 ways overconsumption of processed food could be affecting your health:


Highly processed meals are often packed with extra sugar, and we all know that sugar contributes to obesity, which can then lead to chronic diseases as consequences. Frequently, the word “sugar” lurks behind these words corn syrup, fructose, glucose, malt or maltose, honey, molasses, nectar, etc. However, any type of sugar, including those hidden, has no nutritional value, and contrary to what is believed, they even make your body more avid to consume even more calories.

Sugars are a type of carbohydrates, which the body fuels to get its energy. However, when you overconsume these types of carbohydrates, they are stored in the body—typically as fat that leads to obesity.

That’s because the eating sugary foods trigger a sense of pleasure and craving in your brain, like what is associated with drug addiction. That’s why you think highly processed meals are more delicious and experience subconscious cravings for them.

To keep your body healthy and avoiding obesity, you should moderate your sugar consumption. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, sugars should be limited to no more than 10 percent of daily calories equal to 12 tsp of sugar per day. But don’t let this amount fool you because an average can of soft drink contains about 10 teaspoons alone.

Metabolic Syndrome

Obesity might not sound a health issue for some people, but processed food consumption is also associated with metabolic syndrome, a set of risk factors that can trigger heart disease and type2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when you experience increased waistline with abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, low HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, or high fasting blood glucose.

The excess of sugars found in highly processed foods is the main culprit of several metabolic consequences.  Frequent spikes in blood glucose levels are one of metabolic syndrome that requires insulin to be stabilized. Over time, this can cause insulin resistance, as well as raising the levels of Triglycerides in the blood. The cumulative effects of these metabolic occurrences can increase the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when our body’s immune system confuses healthy cells as unhealthy and prompts an attack against its own organs.

The most common autoimmune diseases are type1 diabetes, Systemic lupus erythematosus, Guillain-Barre syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Psoriasis, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Experts say that 70% of your immune system is found in your stomach. When the tight junctions between intestinal epithelial cells become compromised, they weaken the body’s defence line and can enable exposure of environmental toxins into the body, referring to a condition called leaky gut.

Scientists have shown that 7 common additives abundantly found in processed foods can destroy the tight junctions between intestinal epithelial cells and opens up the door for toxins to harm the body, which can raise the possibility of developing an autoimmune disease. These common additives foods are including glucose, salt, emulsifiers, organic solvents, gluten, microbial transglutaminase, and nanoparticles.

Colorectal Cancer

Processed foods can also raise the likelihood of developing colon cancer. This time, processed meats are the culprit, which include bacon, sausage, lunch meat, hot dogs, beef jerky or any meat product that has been chemically formed to stay preserved. The threat also includes eating red meat such as beef or pork.

Eating as few as 50 gr of processed or red meat per day can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. It is believed that the danger comes from either the chemicals used to preserve these meats or their cooking process, which both are associated with exposure to carcinogenic compounds.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Processed foods can also trigger inflammatory bowel disease, also called Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The culprit is a class of chemical additive known as emulsifiers, which are employed for extending shelf life. You can find them in nearly every processed food product, including bread, peanut butter, cake mixes, salad dressings, sauces, yoghurt, pudding, processed cheese, etc.

Emulsifiers even found in your household soaps or detergents because their primary function is allowing water and oil to stay mixed, either for removing grime or holding together food substances that usually would separate.

A recent study demonstrated that mice who were fed a diet simulating the emulsifiers found in our processed foods experienced changes in their gut bacteria that prompted several health conditions, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The reason for this connection is because the bad bacteria compromise the protective mucous layer that usually separates microbes from the intestinal wall, like how a detergent removes dirt, which triggers an inflammatory response and raised the incidence of these diseases.