Relevant social and economic changes have marked the Brazilian reality over the last six decades. Many of them showed changes in the population’s pattern of health and food consumption. In this context, ultra-processed foods have gained more and more space, while recent studies associate them with the emergence of inflammatory diseases in the intestine.
The Nutritional Assessment of Household Food Availability in Brazil, carried out by the IBGE, based on data from the 2017-2018 Family Budget Survey, showed an increase in the participation of ultra-processed foods and a decrease in in natura or minimally processed foods in the total calories consumed in Brazilian households.
The research identified that, on average, the participation in the nutritional composition of in natura or minimally processed foods increased from 53.3% in 2002-2003 to 49.5% and the participation of ultra-processed foods, which was 12.6%, rose to 18 .4% in the current edition of the survey.
According to physician Leda Maria Delmondes Freitas Trindade, gastroenterologist and professor of Medicine at Tiradentes University, it is necessary to understand the classification of foods before starting to use them frequently.
She explains that there are four categories of food: In natura, in natura minimally processed, processed and ultra-processed.
“To be considered a processed or ultra-processed food, they need to undergo changes in their nutritional composition. You processed should be consumed in small amounts and as ingredients in culinary preparations, such as canned fruits, vegetables, sweets and cheeses”, she explains.
already the ultra processed are extracted from foods such as oils, flour, sugar, starch and proteins, going through a process of industrialization, production and distribution until they are consumed.
Leda cites as an example stuffed cookies, instant noodles, snacks and soft drinks. “These foods are obtained through synthesized products, using organic sources such as coal and oil. The fact that they have aroma, flavor, color and texture make them ‘attractive’ and practical for consumption by children and adults”, reiterates the specialist.
According to the doctor, in this type of food, the presence of labels that indicate its ingredients is mandatory and that, for the sake of health, are avoided due to their low nutritional composition, low content of vitamins, minerals and being rich in calories, preservatives, sodium. , fats and sugars.
“Several studies associate the increase in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality to ultra-processed foods as a food risk factor, in addition to causing a greater atherogenic effect, modification of the intestinal microbiota, inflammatory diseases, including obesity and intestinal, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease , increased Insulin Resistance and Diabetes, systemic arterial hypertension, heart disease and cancer, among others”, he warned.
Since 1960, studies and publications have drawn attention to the rampant consumption of ultra-processed foods and their association with serious diseases. Because they are easy to carry and made to be consumed anywhere and anytime, they are often used as a way to alleviate anxiety, stress or even pass the time.
In addition, the rampant production scale of these foods affects the environment, threatening the sustainability of the planet, as they are considered non-biodegradable.
Leda says that it is very common to see mothers offering ultra-processed foods to their children because they are easy to find and affordable, especially in times of economic crisis.
“Few families are concerned about or have the financial means to offer fresh food, especially in times of crisis, where these foods become expensive and require conservation conditions that, in many homes, do not have a stove, much less a refrigerator. Although it is a privilege for a small portion of Brazilians to sit at the table to eat fresh food, making a conscious choice enables a healthier and longer life”, guides the professor.