A recent observational study done in France found an association between incidence of type 2 diabetes and consumption of ultra-processed foods.
What are ultra-processed foods? From the study at hand, “Ultraprocessed foods (UPF) (ie, foods undergoing multiple physical, biological, and/or chemical processes, among which mostly of exclusive industrial use, and generally containing food additives) are widespread worldwide and especially in Western diets, representing between 25% and 60% of total daily energy [calories].”
These results suggest an association between UPF consumption and type 2 diabetes risk. They need to be confirmed in large prospective cohorts in other settings, and underlying mechanisms need to be explored in ad hoc epidemiological and experimental studies. Beyond nutritional factors, nonnutritional dimensions of the diet may play a role in these associations, such as some additives, neoformed contaminants, and contact materials. Even if a causal link between UPF and chronic diseases cannot be established so far, the accumulation of consistent data leads public health authorities in several countries such as France or Brazil to recommend privileging the consumption of unprocessed/minimally processed foods, and limiting the consumption of UPF in the name of the precautionary principle.
Steve Parker, M.D.