Processed Foods Highly Correlated with Obesity, Study Finds

Washington, D.C.—Processed foods are highly correlated with obesity, according to research from George Washington University (GW).

GW researcher Leigh A. Frame, Ph.D., MHS, said in a press release: “When comparing the U.S. diet to the diet of those who live in ‘blue zones’—areas with populations living to age 100 without chronic disease—the differences are stark. Many of the food trends we reviewed are tied directly to a fast-paced U.S. lifestyle that contributes to the obesity epidemic we are now facing.” Dr. Frame is Program Director for the Integrative Medicine Programs, Executive Director of the Office of Integrative Medicine and Health, and Assistant Professor of Clinical Research and Leadership at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and co-author of the paper.

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The rising obesity epidemic in the U.S., as well as related chronic diseases, are correlated with a rise in ultra-processed food consumption, says the press release. The foods most associated with weight gain include potato chips, sugar sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, refined grains, red meats, and processed meats. Other dietary issues include insufficient dietary fiber intake and an increase in food additives.

Dr. Frame added: “Rather than solely treating the symptoms of obesity and related diseases with medication, we need to include efforts to use food as medicine. Chronic disease in later years is not predestined, but heavily influenced by lifestyle and diet. Decreasing obesity and chronic disease in the U.S. will require limiting processed foods and increasing intake of whole vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits, and water. Health care providers must also emphasize lifestyle medicine, moving beyond ‘a pill for an ill.’”