Processed food: a silent assassin?

October 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Processed food: a silent assassin?

By Sophie Clayton | 08/12/09 – 12:45

Processed food has long been identified as the villain in our diets. The quick and easy alternative to slogging over a hot stove messing about with ‘fresh’ ingredients. When you’re home late from the office, or the kids are screaming and need their face-holes filled ASAP, it is all to easy to reach for the tin of hot dogs at the back of the cupboard, or even cram the whole family in the car and drive to the nearest Wendy’s or Maccy’s.

Despite the nation’s love (or perhaps lust) affair with processed food, we are all aware of the ‘dangers’ that accompany it. But can processed food really be considered a ‘silent assassin’?

Processed food can be defined as food that has been altered from its natural state in order to increase shelf-life, for example. The methods used include canning, freezing, refrigeration, dehydration and aseptic processing. Whereas some processed food such as frozen vegetables and milk can be considered ‘safe’ or even healthy processed food, the processing methods can create some pretty unhealthy stuff. It is argued, among the anti-processed food mob, that foods such as canned food (containing lots of sodium), high-calorie snacks (like fries and cheese-based snacks) and sugary breakfast cereal can contribute to high-blood pressure and heart disease.

Processed meats are among the worst of these food sorts, and eating them can apparently increase your chances of colo-rectal, kidney and stomach cancer. Meats found in fast food burgers and hot dogs tend to be the most highly processed of all foods. According to Steven Gortmaker, professor of society, human development, and health at the Harvard School of Public Health, data from 2005 shows that every day, seven percent of the US population visits a McDonald’s, and 20-25 percent eat fast food of some kind.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) processed foods are to blame for the sharp increase in obesity cases (and chronic disease) seen in the US and across the globe. Also, according to associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard David Ludwig, processed food is also responsible for the increase in diabetes among Americans.

It is without doubt that processed food, when eaten to excess, is harmful and may even contribute to things like heart disease. And it is also true that fast food restaurants are a huge contributor to the nation’s, and indeed the world’s, processed food in take. However, this is when consumed in excess. If people are irresponsible enough to eat a hot dog three times a day, or go to the drive-through every time they’re peckish, then of course they will cause grave damage to their health. However, food alone cannot be an ‘assassin’. Far too many people could be accused of ‘self-assassination’, as they refuse to consume processed stuffs in moderation.

 


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