In new study published online this month in the journal BMJ Open, researchers revealed that more than half of the calories and nearly 90 percent of the added sugars Americans consume come from ‘ultra-processed’ foods—those chock full of salt, sugar, unhealthy fats, and a long list of additives like artificial flavors and sweeteners, food dyes, and emulsifiers.
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers analyzed the dietary information for more than 9,000 people. As it turns out, added sugars make up about 1 out of every 5 calories in most ultra-processed foods, and some of our favorites include sugary drinks, packaged baked goods and sweets, snack foods, ice cream, processed meats, and breads.
In addition to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes, a high-sugar diet has been linked to heart disease, inflammation, and even premature death. Study authors believe eating fewer ultra-processed foods may help bring Americans more in line with the current recommended guidelines and in turn put us on the path to better health.