We have entered a new age of eating. For the first time in human history, most of our calories come from an entirely novel set of substances called Ultra-Processed Food. There's a long, formal scientific definition, but it can be boiled down to this: if it's wrapped in plastic and has at least one ingredient that you wouldn't find in your kitchen, it's UPF. These products are specifically engineered to behave as addictive substances, driving excess consumption. They are now linked to the leading cause of early death globally and the number one cause of environmental destruction. Yet almost all our staple foods are ultra-processed. UPF is our food culture and for many people it is the only available and affordable food. Chris van Tulleken marshals the latest evidence to show how governments, scientists, and doctors have allowed transnational food companies to create a pandemic of diet-related disease.
Goes deep on the history of eating, the biology of nutrition and addiction and the laboratory science that produced foods like maltodextrin and xanthan gum. Despite the technical material, the book is highly readable and van Tulleken — physician, scientist and popular BBC personality — writes with the confidence of a doctor who has a reassuring bedside manner ... Van Tulleken weaves in charming anecdotes about eating breakfast with his young daughters, one of whom gorges on five bowls of Cocoa Puffs, and recounts his own struggle to complete the 30-day diet. Without giving away the ending, let's just say he discovers that the diet has corrupted almost every organ of his body ... Read his book and you'll never read a food label quite the same way again
The reveal that eating a lot of junk food can, among other things, cause obesity may seem underwhelming. But because several decades of scientific research and government policy emphasized vitamins, nutrients and calories as markers of healthy food, we had a somewhat inadequate vocabulary for objecting to, say, highly processed frozen pizza ... Do people eat more when food is cheap, or do they eat more cheap food because the processing that makes it cheap tricks us into eating more? The answer to that question is murky and confounded in van Tulleken’s account ... This book is a tour of how the science of processing has allowed companies to produce goods that are no longer even faint echoes of the real food of which they are copies, and of what the evidence shows about the biology and psychology of eating in today’s world. Van Tulleken is at his best when using his own scientific expertise to help readers through otherwise unnavigable science, data and history, explaining with precision what we are actually eating.
A persuasive mix of analysis and commentary ... Though broadly gauged, Dr. van Tulleken’s analysis includes one vivid episode of first-person reporting ... Given such harm, what are we to do? Dr. van Tulleken’s proposals are modest.