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Ultra-Processing or Oral Processing? A Role for Energy Density and Eating Rate in Moderating Energy Intake from Processed Foods.

Sciprofile linkCiarán G. Forde, Sciprofile linkMonica Mars, Sciprofile linkKees De Graaf
Current Developments in Nutrition , Volume 4; doi:10.1093/cdn/nzaa019

Abstract: Recent observational data and a controlled in-patient crossover feeding trial show that consumption of "ultra-processed foods" (UPFs), as defined by the NOVA classification system, is associated with higher energy intake, adiposity, and at a population level, higher prevalence of obesity. A drawback of the NOVA classification is the lack of evidence supporting a causal mechanism for why UPFs lead to overconsumption of energy. In a recent study by Hall the energy intake rate in the UPF condition (48 kcal/min) was >50% higher than in the unprocessed condition (31 kcal/min). Extensive empirical evidence has shown the impact that higher energy density has on increasing ad libitum energy intake and body weight. A significant body of research has shown that consuming foods at higher eating rates is related to higher energy intake and a higher prevalence of obesity. Energy density can be combined with eating rate to create a measure of energy intake rate (kcal/min), providing an index of a food's potential to promote increased energy intake. The current paper compared the association between measured energy intake rate and level of processing as defined by the NOVA classification. Data were pooled from 5 published studies that measured energy intake rates across a total sample of 327 foods. We show that going from unprocessed, to processed, to UPFs that the average energy intake rate increases from 35.5 ± 4.4, to 53.7 ± 4.3, to 69.4 ± 3.1 kcal/min (P < 0.05). However, within each processing category there is wide variability in the energy intake rate. We conclude that reported relations between UPF consumption and obesity should account for differences in energy intake rates when comparing unprocessed and ultra-processed diets. Future research requires well-controlled human feeding trials to establish the causal mechanisms for why certain UPFs can promote higher energy intake.
Keywords: obesity / Metabolic disease / Food texture / energy density / Eating Rate / Energy Intake Rate / Unprocessed Foods / Ultra-processed Foods

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