Article: Take Cue From Anti-Tobacco Campaigns to Combat Processed Food Consumption

Something is not working. Despite what you may read in the headlines, access to healthcare and an overall healthy lifestyle has never been greater for the majority of people, especially in first world countries. And yet, obesity (and rates of obesity-related chronic disease) continue to rapidly rise. A major reason is ultra processed foods. Public health experts believe that the only way to combat this is to be as aggressive and forthright as past and current anti-tobacco campaigns and messaging. Highlights from article below:

More than half the total calories consumed in high income countries come from ultra processed foods.

Ultra processed foods- defined as those that have been chemically or physically transformed using industrial processes, are high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats and usually take the form of packaged foods that are ready-to-eat, contain more than 5 ingredients, and have a long shelf life.

"The industrial processing, as well as the cocktail of additives, flavors, emulsifiers and colors they contain to give flavor and texture, make the final product hyper-palatable or more appealing and potentially addictive, which in turn leads to poor dietary patterns.

These foods are among the most aggressively promoted and marketed products in the world. The same foods have been proven to correlate with heightened risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression.

To combat such marketing, and harmful effects on populations, we must foster the same, strong public understanding of the consequences of consuming a dangerous product, as we did with tobacco.

Alongside public education directly linking these products to serious ill health, front of package warning labels, already adopted in some countries, could be further strengthened by incorporating an ultra processed warning label to signal an independent, additional measure of unhealthiness.

LINK: British Medical Journal - Tobacco-style health campaigns needed to spell out ultra processed food harms (Medical, 21 Dec 2021)

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