What is healthy when it comes to food? That's aquestion that many people struggle to answer on adaily basis around the world. How much sugar, fat, carbs, and salt our bodies need has been the topic ofdebate for, well, pretty much forever, andconstantly-shifting nutritional guidelines aren'tmaking things any easier to understand.
Calories are, of course, the biggest factor in how much weight a person loses or gains, but howwe get those calories can vary dramatically from person to person. Now, a new study suggeststhat eating so-called "ultra-processed" foods may be fueling the obesity epidemic andcontributing to overeating.
The study, which was published in Cell Metabolism, focused on the eating habits of a group of20 volunteers who agreed to follow specific eating guidelines for two weeks. The subjectsselected for the study were considered "weight-stable," meaning they had been maintainingtheir weight without any dramatic fluctuation.
The group was randomly split into two groups, with one group eating a diet of unprocessedfoods and the other eating the oh-so-convenient ultra-processed foods, or "junk food," as weoften think of it.
"During each diet phase, the subjects were presented with three daily meals and wereinstructed to consume as much or as little as desired," the researchers write. "Up to 60 minwas allotted to consume each meal. Menus rotated on a 7-day schedule, and the meals weredesigned to be well matched across diets for total calories, energy density, macronutrients, fiber, sugars, and sodium, but widely differing in the percentage of calories derived from ultra-processed versus unprocessed foods."
With no limitations placed on the number of calories any of the subjects were consuming, theparticipants ate until they were satisfied and full. Those in the processed diet group could eatchips, candy, cereals, and other energy-dense foods, while the others consumed cooked wholevegetables, minimally processed rice, and fruit.
On average, those who were given the ultra-processed diet ate just over 500 more calories thanthose who ate the unprocessed foods. The ultra-processed group gained an average of twopounds during the two-week experiment, while the unprocessed food group lost roughly thesame amount.
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