The Truth About Processed Foods

I think our great-grand parents would be horrified to see how we eat these days: on the run, out of boxes, and often all alone. Gone is the 4-Square meals for many, many Americans, and lets’ be honest, most of the food is brown. Unfortunately, it’s not just Grandma’s best recipes we’re doing injustice to by eating more take-out, our processed food diets are literally killing us the slow hard way. It’s seriously affecting out kids, our development, our guts, and how we age.

The truth is, we no longer have a connection to where our food comes from and so have no idea why it’s causing us to suffer as much as it does, especially over the last 60 years. And the reason why is, those dependent on highly processed diets aren’t even eating real food, they’re eating a cacophony of “food-like” substances. Imposters, really, and our bodies can only cope for so long before asking us for help.

Today, an astonishing 60 % of everything food Americans put in their mouth (between 2007-2012) is ULTRA-processed. These “foods” also account for 90% of all added sugar in consumption in the USA every year!
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports how the average American consumes between 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugars in ONE year. And yet during the early-19th century, the average intake of sugar was only about 4-6 pounds per person per year… [1] And there are more than 141 ways that sugar messes with us. whooooo, boy!

What is “ultra-processed food”?

We’re going to make this distinction because, well, butter (for one example) is a “processed” food, as it is processed out of cream.  But this is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about this amorphous, broad category of “foods,” which include items prepared by methods not people, and containing myriads of “nutrients” food additives, and stabilizers; in particular, those “foods” that because of their constituent additives, have been linked to cancer and other epidemiological ailments.

For instance, take a look at the list of ingredients from the “strawberry” flavoring in a milkshake served at a drive-through restaurant:
Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamylvalerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl Nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerbate, heliotropin, hydroxphrenyl-2butanone (10% solution to alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbone, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl slicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobulyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, sore rum ether, g-undecalctone, vanillin, and solvent.

WUT!? This is not food: this is a chemical cocktail! 

And frankly, there’s the little rule of thumb: if you can’t pronounce it, maybe you shouldn’t be eating it… yet this is the stuff that we find in our grocery stores across the country. Our freezers, fast-food, microwave dinners, pizzas, sliced “whole wheat bread,” sugary cereals, and most anything your see advertised on TV.  And if you’re still happily eating fast food hamburgers, well, y’all: Do you know what PINK SLIME is?

And remember the commercials “parts is parts?”  Those were about Chiken Nuggets . . . this mechanically separated chicken help put some fast-food joints on the map for what then passed as “health food.”  They revolutionized what was then a burgeoning “family atmosphere” at fast-food hubs along interstates and community centers.

In the last 50 years, the hyper processing was largely an argument between white bread and whole grains, as it had been proven that whole-grain intake, largely attributed to the cereal fiber, was inversely associated with metabolic syndrome. And this is still true. But food costs go up, parents work more than one job, and there’s just less and less money going to secure healthy foods for us and our families with our ever shrinking dollar.

So, many-many Americans are making these choices, because ultra-processed food is cheap, and fast food (that can last a long, long time). Not to mention that it has addictive ingredients that keep you hooked on the product itself, like BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene): it affects the gut to brain signaling which tells us to stop eating. Its use can contribute to overeating and obesity, because it overrides our body’s natural hunger. It’s also an endocrine disruptor, which is also linked to cancer in some animal studies.

We’re still seeing a disproportionate amount of low-income families and individuals relying on these kinds of ingredients to support their nutritional needs. Not that everyone is going for a drive-through strawberry milkshake every day (although some do), but it is true that its consumption is greater among the less educated, younger, lower-income strata, and has only increased across time. Even though, across large prospective studies, a mere 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a significant increase of cancer overall (and greater incidents of breast cancer).

Ultra-Processed Heart-Attacks

“ . . . the CDC has linked [processed foods] to at least 20,000 heart attacks per year (often found in Frosting, baked goods, non-dairy creamers, cookies, crackers.)” – The Food Babe.

Ultra-Processed Gut Issues

We’re seeing a huge rise in IBD, IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Colon cancers, and here’s the thing; there’s a much higher potential for cheap processed food to have non-food ingredients, like, for example, sawdust.   This affects our guts in a big way.

I’ll add this personal note: I developed Chron’s disease at the age of 19 after just three years of eating mostly highly-processed foods.  I do not believe that this was a coincidence. 

Consider the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin, which is one of the most common genetically engineered traits. GMO crops that contain the Bt toxin are designed to kill insects by breaking open their stomachs. The concern now is that iit might be causing a related reaction in humans.

Leaky Gut: Leaky gut syndrome takes place when fissures open between cells lining the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Partially digested food particles ooze through those fissures into the body and appear to be foreign invaders. The immune system is then called out to seek and destroy. If the situation isn’t ameliorated, autoimmune disorders, food allergies and food sensitivities may arise.  When this happened to me (I have Chron’s), I developed extremely painful intestinal breaks called fistulas. 

“The gut is the first interaction point between artificially engineered foods and human physiology — it’s on the front line” [2].  So, when we eat excitotoxins (which will also show up on labels as innocuously as “natural flavor”), like MSG, or grains enhanced with BhT, is it really such a far-fetched idea that what explodes the stomach of pestilent insects, will still have an effect on our guts too?

Maybe Great-Grandma’s backyard garden is still the way to go. Think about it.


6. Schiosser E. :Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, New
York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2001
8. Christakis, G., et al., “Effect of the Anti-Coronary Club Program on Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factor Status,” JAMA, Nov. 7, 1966;