Gro­cery sto­res bul­king up on ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods,

La Jornada (Canada) - - PORTADA - Dr. Jean-Clau­de Mou­ba­rac is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of nu­tri­tion in the Fa­culty of Me­di­ci­ne at the Uni­ver­sity of Mon­treal and an expert ad­vi­ser with Evi­den­ceNet­ His new study, “Ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods in Ca­na­da: con­sum­ption, im­pact on diet qua­lity an

In the 1960s, the big­gest su­per­mar­kets only ca­rried 10,000 items or fe­wer. Big su­per­mar­kets to­day of­fer al­most 40,000 pro­ducts.

To be su­re, among tho­se ex­tra items are mo­re kinds of fresh fruits, ve­ge­ta­bles and non-food items. But not 30,000. The vast ma­jo­rity of the ad­di­tio­nal food items are a hu­ge ran­ge of ready-to-eat pro­ducts from co­okies to snacks to com­ple­te din­ners that ha­ve a cha­rac­te­ris­tic in com­mon: they are ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods.

And they are not nou­ris­hing us.

A study I just com­ple­ted for Heart & Stro­ke de­mons­tra­tes the ex­tent of the pro­blem. It found that in 2015, Ca­na­dians re­cei­ved al­most half (48.3 per cent) of their to­tal ca­lo­ries from ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods, with the hig­hest ra­tes of con­sum­ption among tho­se in whom it can do most harm - chil­dren. Kids age ni­ne to 13 get al­most 60 per cent of their ca­lo­ries from the­se un­healthy foods. This high con­sum­ption is evi­dent across all so­cio-eco­no­mic groups. New­co­mers to Ca­na­da are the one no­ta­ble ex­cep­tion; they con­su­me con­si­de­rably fe­wer of their ca­lo­ries from ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods than tho­se born in Ca­na­da.

What are ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods and why does it mat­ter? Prac­ti­cally all foods are pro­ces­sed in so­me way. So­me are mi­ni­mally pro­ces­sed, such as fresh, dry or fro­zen ve­ge­ta­bles and fruit, nuts, meat, fish, eggs and milk. Ot­hers are cu­li­nary in­gre­dients such as oil and su­gar. Pro­ces­sed foods are made by ad­ding in­gre­dients to mi­ni­mally-pro­ces­sed foods; they in­clu­de sim­ple breads and chee­se, and pre­ser­ved ve­ge­ta­bles.

The pro­blem is ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods. They’re for­mu­la­tions of re­fi­ned subs­tan­ces and ad­di­ti­ves; at the end, most ha­ve little or no in­tact food left. Think of a po­ta­to chip or a su­gary puf­fed ce­real that sup­po­sedly star­ted with a hint of grain. They al­so in­clu­de can­dies, ot­her fatty, su­gary or salty snack foods, pac­ka­ged soups, su­gary drinks and most ready-to-eat meals.

Ove­rall, the­se pro­ducts con­tain twi­ce the ca­lo­ries, th­ree ti­mes the amount of free su­gars and twi­ce the so­dium com­pa­red to non-ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods (real foods). And they ha­ve much less of what we need: pro­tein, fi­bre, vi­ta­mins and mi­ne­rals.

The­re has been a re­vo­lu­tio­nary chan­ge in our diets over the past de­ca­des and, whi­le fe­wer peo­ple in rich coun­tries li­ke Ca­na­da now go hungry, many of us eat far less well. A pre­vious study of mi­ne sho­wed that the vi­tal chan­ge in the diets of Ca­na­dians sin­ce the 1930s has been the re­pla­ce­ment of freshly pre­pa­red meals and dis­hes made with un­pro­ces­sed or mi­ni­mally-pro­ces­sed foods for one do­mi­na­ted by ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods.

In the past 70 years, ca­lo­ries from ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods ha­ve dou­bled from 24 per cent to 54 per cent of fa­mily food pur­cha­ses. That’s not sur­pri­sing, sin­ce most of the­se foods are bran­ded as­ser­ti­vely, pac­ka­ged at­trac­ti­vely and mar­ke­ted ex­ten­si­vely, es­pe­cially to our chil­dren. And they are everyw­he­re, of­ten at very low pri­ces.

In the last few de­ca­des, es­pe­cially in high-in­co­me coun­tries and com­mu­ni­ties, the meal has been fast di­mi­nis­hing and to a lar­ge

Far­too­many­pro­duc­tsi­nCa­na­da’ss­to­res gi­veus­lot­sof­ca­lo­ries­butlittle­nu­tri­tion. And­weha­ve­dan­ge­rousl­ya­ban­do­ned co­okin­gand­meal-ti­me­rou­ti­nes

ex­tent re­pla­ced by snac­king, mostly on ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods. This is both a so­cial di­sas­ter and a nu­tri­tio­nal ca­la­mity. Pre­pa­ring and ea­ting com­ple­te fresh meals together is a vi­tal part of healthy, vi­brant fa­mi­lies and so­cie­ties.

Ul­tra-pro­ces­sed foods might be con­ve­nient and fast, but they’re not healthy and we’re pa­ying hea­vily for it. Un­healthy diet is now the lea­ding risk fac­tor for death - it was res­pon­si­ble for 47,000 deaths in Ca­na­da in 2016. And the Pu­blic Health Agency of Ca­na­da says the an­nual cost of diet-re­la­ted di­sea­se in Ca­na­da is $26 bi­llion.

What can we do to com­bat this die­tary cri­sis? The­re’s no easy fix, but a num­ber of im­por­tant things can and must be do­ne.

Res­tric­ting un­healthy food and be­ve­ra­ge mar­ke­ting to chil­dren is a good step. For­tu­na­tely, such le­gis­la­tion is being de­ba­ted in the Hou­se of Commons.

We need up­da­ted na­tio­nal die­tary gui­de­li­nes and edu­ca­tion to help Ca­na­dians ma­ke healthy choi­ces. Again, for­tu­na­tely, the fe­de­ral go­vern­ment has an­noun­ced a new Healthy Ea­ting Stra­tegy that in­clu­des re­vi­sions to Ca­na­da’s Food Gui­de and strong front-of-pack nu­tri­tion la­be­lling.

We al­so need to chan­ge how we think and talk about food. Our pu­blic dis­cus­sions about food in re­cent de­ca­des ha­ve been fo­cu­sed mo­re on par- ti­cu­lar vi­llains - sa­tu­ra­ted fats, so­dium and su­gar - which has left little room to pro­mo­te a who­le-diet ap­proach. We need to sup­port peo­ple to look mo­re at their ove­rall diet, and the im­por­tan­ce of ta­king the ti­me to get fresh and mi­ni­mally-pro­ces­sed foods to ma­ke mo­re de­li­cious but healthy meals at ho­me from scratch.

We need to bring back co­oking in schools, hos­pi­tals, se­nior ci­ti­zens hou­ses and even at work­pla­ces so ever­yo­ne can ha­ve ac­cess to freshly-made meals from real food.

We al­so need to res­to­re the im­por­tant so­cial be­ne­fits fa­mi­lies ha­ve lost by not spen­ding ti­me co­oking and ea­ting healthy meals together. The­se fun­da­men­tal ac­ti­vi­ties tie us together and to na­tu­re.

We can chan­ge. It starts by ig­no­ring most of tho­se 40,000 items at your lo­cal su­per­mar­ket. -TROYMEDIA

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