The American diet is even worse than we thought. According to researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, more than half of the average American diet is composed of ultra-processed foods. These foods make up 90% of the excess added sugar calories. The researchers reviewed data from more than 9,000 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-2009-2010). Results showed that added sugar makes up one in every five calories in the average American diet. The recommended added sugar intake is 10% of calories, but Americans consuming these highly-processed foods exceeded this limit 80% of the time. The researchers warn that the health dangers go even farther than the excessive amounts of sugar in these foods. “Ultra-processed foods are chemically designed by the food companies to induce cravings for those foods, and sugar, fat and sodium are a big part of those formulas,” say the researchers.
One in three Americans drinks at least on sugar-laden soda or juice every day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In Perspective: What are ultra-processed foods? They include sodas, sweet or savory packaged snacks, candy, desserts, packaged baked goods, instant noodles and soups, and reconstituted meat products, such as chicken and fish nuggets, to name only a few. These foods are packed with salt, sugar, oils, fats, and chemicals, such as flavorings, emulsifiers, and other additives designed to artificially mimic real food.
Steele E, Baraldi L, Louzada M, et al: Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the U.S. diet. British Medical Journal Open 2016; March 9th.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2016; February 26th