Processed food

Related to the attempt to improve food availability, safety, digestibility, transportability, and storage life.

The availability of processed food has been associated with rising chronic diseases, including cancer.

Ultraprocessed foods is the most extreme category of food classification, made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods and additives, with the little if any whole food.

Ultraprocessed foods are ready to eat or ready to heat industrial formulations made mainly with ingredients refined or extracted from foods and contain additives but little to no whole foods.

Industrial produced ultraprocessed foods use modern technology to create visually appealing and hyperpalatable products extracted from food, such as casein and whey; substance derived from food constituents through further processing such as soy protein isolates and malodextrin; and non-culinary additives such as flavor enhancers and emulsifiers 

Ultraprocessed foods are typically high in added sugar, trans fats, sodium, refined starch and low end fiber, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Studies indicate consistent evidence suggesting that high intake of ultraprocessed food contributes to obesity and cardiometabolic risk factors in children and adults, and is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancers, and total mortality in adults.

The estimated proportion of energy intake for the consumption of ultraprocessed foods is increasing among US youths and comprise the majority of their total energy intake.

Tertiary processed food, is food that is commercially prepared generally through processing, to optimize ease of consumption.

Described as foods that have been created to make them more appealing to the consumer.

Processed foods designated as convenience foods are often sold as hot, ready-to-eat dishes,as room-temperature, shelf-stable products, or as refrigerated or frozen food products that require minimal preparation.


It may also be easily portable, have a long shelf life, or offer a combination of such convenient traits.


Processed food is any food that is subjected to mechanical, chemical, or heat-based processing to change its characteristics. 

  • All cooked food is processed food
  • All baked food is processed food
  • All boiled food is processed food
  • All pickled food is processed food
  • All diced or chopped food is processed food (hence why automated food slicing machines are called food processors)
  • All canned or bottled food is processed food
  • All blended food is processed food
  • All whipped or churned food is processed food
  • All smoked food is processed food
  • All steamed food is processed food
  • All dried food is processed food

Such convenience foods include ready-to-eat dry products, frozen foods such as TV dinners, shelf-stable foods, prepared mixes such as cake mix, and snack foods.

Types of convenience foods can vary by country and geographic region.

Ultraprocessed foods are rich in energy and potentially unhealthy elements.

High levels of food processing can make nutrients more accessible and reduce satiety. 

Ultraprocessed foods replace healthy, nutritious, fresh foods, depriving individuals of the benefits derived from a high-quality food pattern mainly based in non-processed or minimally processed foods, such as a Mediterranean diet.

Ultraprocessed food is strongly associated with higher rates of obesity.

The consumption of highly processed foods promotes dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens, which is central to reward and addiction related behavior.

British Medical Journal study found that an estimated 14% of adults and 12% of children are addicted to ultra-processed foods that include refined sugar and fats: Fatty and sugar-rich foods are as addictive as nicotine and cocaine and even more so than heroin.

The current pandemic of obesity was preceded by increases in the production and consumption of ultra processed foods, with an estimate of a threefold increase in their consumption in some western countries in recent decades.

Such food is usually ready to eat without further preparation.

Such convenience foods include ready-to-eat dry products, frozen foods such as TV dinners, shelf-stable foods, prepared mixes such as cake mix, and snack foods.

Convenience foods can include: candy, beverages such as soft drinks, juices and milk; nuts, fruits and vegetables in fresh or preserved states,processed meats and cheeses, canned products such as soups and pasta dishes, frozen pizza, chips, such as potato chips, pretzels, and cookies.

Types of convenience foods can vary by country and geographic region.

Convenience food is commercially prepared for ease of consumption.

Hyperpalatable foods associated with binge eating  tend to be highly processed and high in sugars and fats. 

Ultra-processed foods often have a higher content of total fat, saturated fat, added sugars, and salt, along with a lower amount of fiber and low vitamin density.

With highly processed foods less starch reaches the large intestine and more energy is absorbed by the body, and this shift in energy delivery due to eating more processed foods may be contributing factors to the development of metabolic disorders of modern life, including obesity and diabetes.

In the Spanish study and increased intake of ultra processed food was associated with the higher mortality of the 7.7 years of follow up.

In a Brazil study a 11% cardiovascular mortality reduction was estimated if ultra processed foods were reduced by 50% and substituted with unprocessed or minimally processed foods, plus an additional 50% reduction in processed culinary ingredients.


Ultra processed foods have a high energy density that is less satiating, highly accessible, and prone to causing over consumption, which is associated with mortality.


Industrial ultra process foods contain high quantities of saturated fatty acids, transfer fatty acids, hydrogenated oils, starches, free sugars, salt, food additives used to imitate the sensory qualities of natural foods, or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product, such as colorants, flavorings, artificial sweeteners, and emulsifiers.

Trans fatty acid intake is related to an increase in all-cause mortality rates in several populations as has total sugar intake.

Consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with poor diet quality with less consumption of fiber, fruit, and vegetables, and unhealthy lifestyle with smoking and sedentary behaviors which all contribute to increased mortality.

Ultra-processed foods can contain contaminants derived from physical, chemical, and biological processes, along with substances from packaging and additives.

Ultra-processed food consumption is associated with poor diet quality.

Ultra-processed foods are highly palatable, and habit-forming.

Ultra-processed foods are convenient, microbiologically safe, and affordable.

Ultra-processed foods are increasing and presently accounts for 25-50% of total food energy intake.

Ultra processed foods are made from food constituents but without any identifiable intact food.

Ultra processed food is associated with obesity, weight gain, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

A higher consumption of ultra processed foods is independently associated with higher all-cause mortality in an eight year follow up study.

When ultra processed foods provide more than one of every 3 calories, it is associated with a relative increase in total mortality of 44% compared with individuals in which ultra processed foods provide only one of every 7 calories.

Identifiable agents added to ultra processed foods includes chemicals, stabilizing substances, flavoring agents, and other additives that imitate the sensory qualities of food.

Ultra processed foods are heavily loaded with freesugars, fats, salt, synthetic antioxidants, preservatives and other chemicals.

Ultra processed foods include: sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar milk, fruit drinks,, fast food, cookies, candies, sweets, and savory package snacks.

Industrially produced foods, such as snacks, chips, convenience foods, carbonated drinks, increase the risk of death, especially from cardiovascular causes.


Industrial processed foods are generally low in essential nutrients, high in sugar, oil and salt and liable to be overconsumed. 

The study of over twenty-two thousand participating in the Moli-sani Project: 

those consuming a high amount of ultra-processed foods had an increased risk of death from any cause of 26%, and of 58% specifically from cardiovascular diseases.

Excess sugar accounts only for 40% of the increased death risk. 

Dietary shifting is expected to increase the risk for chronic diseases.

Ultra-processed foods found to be related to obesity.

There is the positive relationship between ultra-processed food intake and the risk of mortality.

Positive associations have been found between fast food and sugar-sweetened and beverage consumption and mortality.

A meta-analysis showed a non-linear 7% higher risk with an increased intake of sugar-sweetened beverages up to 250 milliliters per deciliter.

Increased mortality has been shown with meat and processed meats.


The high sodium content of processed meats is likely to increase the risk of CHD by increasing blood pressure and vascular resistance. 

Prospective study demonstrated neutral association between milk and dairy products and mortality without a distinction between process and ultra processed foods.

In most developed countries, 80% of consumed salt comes from industry-prepared food, 5% come from natural salt, 15% comes from salt added during cooking or eating.

A single serving of many convenience foods contains a significant portion of the recommended daily allowance of sodium.

Some popular packaged foods depend on significant amounts of salt for their palatability.

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