Processed foods like chips, soda and frozen pizzas are full of salt, sugar and fat. Now, scientists are trying to understand if there is something else about such foods that may be bad for humans.
Scientists have already linked low-cost, packaged foods to rising obesity rates around the world. Obesity is a condition involving too much body fat. It increases the risk of many health problems.
Three recent studies offer more clues on how our increasingly industrialized food supply may be affecting our health.
What does processed mean?
The researchers created a system that places foods into four groups. The system says highly processed foods are made mostly of industrialized materials and additives.
Sodas, packaged cookies, instant noodles and chicken nuggets are some examples of highly processed foods. But also included are products that can seem healthy, such as morning cereals, energy bars and some kinds of yogurt.
What’s wrong with processed foods?
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health conducted a four-week study involving 20 people. They found that people eat about 500 more calories a day when fed mostly processed foods. That is compared to when the same people were given less processed foods.
The researchers permitted the 20 participants to eat as much or as little as they wanted. They were taken to a medical center so their health and behavior could be observed.
In another study, researchers in France found people who ate more processed foods were more likely to have heart disease. A similar study in Spain linked eating more processed foods to a higher risk of death in general.
What is it about processed foods?
When fed less processed foods, people in the study produced more of a hormone that controls hunger, and less of a hormone that causes hunger. The reason for the reaction is not clear. The scientists also found that people ate processed foods more quickly.
Kevin Hall is one of the researchers who led the study. He told the AP that processed foods are usually “softer and easier to chew and swallow.”
Hall noted the source of nutrients might make a difference. For example, fibers from whole fruits and vegetables may be better for making people feel full than fiber added to packaged foods such as energy bars and yogurt.
What should you eat?
Avoiding processed foods can be hard, especially for people with limited time and money.
Processed foods can also take many forms. In addition, companies continually re-engineer products to make them seem healthier.
The newest studies may provide more reasons to avoid processed foods. But, they also call attention to the difficulty of coming up with ways to do that.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English from a report by the Reuters news service. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Quiz - What's So Bad About Processed Foods?
Start the Quiz to find out
Words in This Story
bar – n. a solid piece of something that is shaped like a rectangle
chew – v. to use your teeth to cut food into small pieces before you swallow it
fiber – n. plant material that cannot be digested but that helps you to digest other food
packaged – adj. something that comes in a container
yogurt – n. a food that is made when bacteria are added to milk and that is often flavored and chilled
Lesson 42: I Was Minding My Own Business
The English We Speak
To vanish into thin air
EPISODE 190624 / 24 JUN 2019
Feifei’s homemade cake has disappeared! Can Rob solve the mystery of her missing cake? There’s a perfect phrase to describe the situation and there’s an obvious answer to the mystery. All will be revealed in The English We Speak!
This is The English We Speak. I’m Feifei.
And hello, I’m Rob.
Rob, would you mind wiping those crumbs from your mouth?
Do you know, it’s very strange - I made a cake a last night and brought it to work today to share with you.
That’s very kind!
Yes, but it seems to have vanished into thin air.
Wow! You’re a magician! You’ve made a cake disappear!
No, Rob. The phrase 'to vanish into thin air’ means 'to suddenly, mysteriously and completely disappear'. You haven’t seen the cake, have you, Rob?
No, Feifei – no sign of your ‘disappearing’ cake.
OK, well let’s hear some examples of this phrase. Let’s hope they haven’t suddenly disappeared!
I can’t remember where I’ve parked the car! I think it’s vanished into thin air.
Have you seen the boss? Someone important needs to talk to him but I can't find him anywhere. It's like he's vanished into thin air.
Has anyone seen my glasses? They’ve vanished into thin air.
This is The English We Speak from BBC Learning English and we’re learning about the expression ‘to vanish into thin air’, which can be used to describe a situation where something mysteriously and suddenly disappears. So any sign of my cake?
Very odd. I put it on my desk this morning and went to make a cup of coffee and when I returned, it had gone.
Great cake, Rob! Thanks for sharing it! I hope you’ll be baking again soon! See you!
Sorry, Feifei! It was so tempting, so delicious, so I thought…
So you thought you’d eat it!
It helped us demonstrate today’s phrase.
There’s just one thing I want to vanish into thin air.
Oh yeah? And what’s that?
You, Rob! Now I’m off to bake a cake - for me.
See you! Oh, she’s gone!
Pollution in Thailand at ‘stable’ level for past five years
national June 25, 2019 01:00
By The Nation
Environmental Health day to be marked with measures to improve the quality of air
THOUGH MILLIONS of people across the world succumb to ailments caused by air pollution every year, Thailand’s situation has been described as “stable in the past five years”. This is despite the fact that pollution in the North was worse than ever this year, officials said yesterday.
As much as 90 per cent of the world’s population lives in highly polluted areas, which contributed to an annual 7 million deaths, Department of Health director-general Dr Panpimol Wipulakorn told the press yesterday ahead of Thai Environmental Health Day marked every year on July 4.
This year, the day will be marked with an event on July 1 and 2 at Miracle Grand Convention Hotel under the theme “Better Air Quality for Better Health”.
Meanwhile, Pollution Control Department (PCD) executive Pansak Thiramongkol said that air pollution in Thailand has been generally stable over the past five years, though the key issues of concern are fine airborne particulate matter 10 microns or less in diameter and the depleting ozone layer.
Air pollution peaked beyond safety levels in the North during the dry season from January to April, he said, adding the situation was worsened further as the El Nino phenomenon pushed the temperatures higher by a couple of degrees and the rate of rainfall dropped by 10 per cent.
To add to this, there were many forest fires sparked by fires set off by farmers to clear their farmland nearby.
Air pollution in Tambon Na Phra Lan in Saraburi province’s Chalerm Phrakiat district was also bad this year because the production of cement and construction contributed to more dust in the air during the dry season.
Meanwhile, the average level of PM2.5, or dust particles that are smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, in Bangkok and nearby provinces stood at 27 micrograms per cubic metre of air – slightly higher than the World Health Organisation’s safety standard of 25mcg. Pansak put this problem mainly down to traffic jams.
‘Get to the source’
As for similar problems in Bangkok and its vicinity next year, Pansak said the way to deal with that would be to use air-purifying towers, which cost Bt60 million each and can purify 10 million cubic metres of air per day.
This means Bangkok will require at least 16,000 such towers, and this does not include the cost of the land needed to house these towers.
“So, it would be easier and cheaper to just bring the sources of pollution under control,” he added.