Dr. Michael Greger’s latest nutrition video is about ultra-processed foods, aka junk. It has the astonishing statistic that over 50% of the calories consumed in developed countries come from junk. And when looking at binge eating disorders, pretty much 100% of the calories consumed during a binge are from junk. That rings true for me, I don’t know if I’ve ever officially had a binge eating disorder, but I have definitely been known to binge from time to time. And when I do, it’s chips (or crisps in the UK), cookies, soda, etc.
There are a lot of studies consistently showing that overconsumption of junk leads to adverse health effects. What is new in this video are results from an interventional study  that had a control group eating unprocessed food matched with a group eating junk. They matched the sugar content, as well as protein, carbs, fat, and fiber of the two diets (which required using non-nutritive sweeteners and fiber supplements in the “junk” diet). The study actually made junk food less harmful than usual, because it typically has a high percentage of fat, sugar, other bad carbs, or all of the above, so it is much more calorically dense than healthier food. Despite this, participants were told to eat as much as they liked, and the junk food eaters averaged 500 calories more per day. There is talk in the food industry of coming out with “healthier” junk food by supplementing with fiber and reducing sugar content. This study indicates that is not likely to help.
- Hall, K, et al, “Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake”, Cell Metab 2019. online here