The Cumulative Effect of Processed and Manufactured Foods as it Relates to Today’s Chronic Illnesses and Diseases

David Medansky Dietitian-Nutritionist | Nutrition, Education PEORIA, AZ

People hire David Medansky to create their thinner selves because most diets are trendy, temporary and hard to stick to. He helps them feel better by teaching them how to eat healthier, and stop them from losing the same 10 pounds over and over. Bottom line, his clients improve their health and LOVE what they see in the... more

Positive action can change every negative situation. – Darren Hardy, New York Times best-selling author of The Compound Effect.

In 1995, the average grocery store carried about 15,000 products. Today, it’s over 50,000. Now, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of that many new fruits, vegetables or berries being discovered during this time. The obvious reason for so many new products is the foods being created by food companies. Unfortunately, these foods are filled with chemicals, GMO’s and refined sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats.

The “Bliss Point” is a term coined by Howard Moskowitz for how food manufacturers scientifically engineer our food to increase the optimization of our food tastiness and to increase our cravings. Bliss Point is used in the formulation of food products to find the perfect balance of the three main components our bodies crave – salt, sugar, and fat. It’s a complex process pinpointing the exact combination of ingredients that flash our neurological pleasures zones so that we never get the “satisfaction” signal that tells us to stop eating. Like the Rolling Stones, you can’t get no satisfaction.

The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola, Doritos, or Pringles — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating. Simply stated, foods are engineered to be so tasty that it’s hard to resist them. Moskowitz describes the Bliss Point as "that sensory profile where you like food the most.” In other words, they are addicting.

What Does This Mean For You?

It means that food manufacturers are turning you into food junkies, with many different types of junk food available. 

Darren Hardy described weight loss in his book, The Compound Effect. He talks about three buddies who grew up together and all lived in the same neighborhood. They’re all married and have average health and body weight. Darren describes how one of the buddies made small, seemingly inconsequential, positive changes in his life and another made small, seemingly inconsequential, negative changes. The results were dramatic after about 31 months, less than 3 years.

The friend who made positive changes weighed about 33 pounds less, while the other friend gained 34 pounds. A difference of 67 pounds.

Are you wondering what does this have to do with you?

Everything. Because it’s the smallest seemingly inconsequential things you eat and drink consistently over a long time (years), that can make the biggest difference to being healthy or having chronic illnesses.

Hippocrates – Let Food Be Your Medicine?

Hippocrates, known as the “father of medicine” said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” However, that was before the food industry offered us processed foods and manufactured foods. Today, these foods are toxic and contribute to many of modern-day chronic illnesses and diseases because of the chemicals used in the processing that accumulates over time in your body.

Darren Hardy proved that making small, seemingly inconsequential changes accumulated consistently over a long period of time can lead to positive results. The other side of the coin are the negative, unnoticed damage being done to your body, because of the cumulative effect of eating processed and manufactured foods.

For those of you who have read this far, here’s the good news. Much of it is reversible and preventable.

Your Meals Are Being Supersized

Are you aware that you are supersizing your meal portions? Probably not. At least McDonald’s gives you a choice. Fact: The average size of an American dinner plate has increased almost 25 percent since 1900. In the 1960's, the average dinner plate was 9 inches in diameter and by the year 2000, it was 11 inches. Currently, dinner plates commonly used measure 12 inches across. Yet, in Europe, the average plate measures 9 inches. Many American restaurants serve food on plates measuring 13 inches in diameter. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the United States has a weight problem.

What this means for you is you are unconsciously eating more food than necessary.

Use A Salad Plate Instead Of A Dinner Plate

If you put the exact amount of food on a salad plate as on a dinner plate, the food on the dinner plate will look like you’re getting less. The food on the salad plate will look like you’re getting more. It’s an optical illusion. It’s known as the Delboeuf Illusion.

Franz Joseph Delboeuf, a Belgian mathematician and philosopher, first documented this phenomenon in 1865. Delboeuf started with two dots of equal size. He surrounded one dot with a large circle and the other dot with a small one. He noticed the second dot looked bigger.

Research suggests that choices, like how much to eat during a meal, are often made subconsciously. The problem arises because our brains are hard-wired to mislead us in lots of little ways, which can have a big impact on our diets.

Brian Wansink and Koert Van Ittersum, professors of marketing at Georgia Institute of Technology, performed a series of experiments and tests to measure the effect of the Delboeuf illusion on serving behavior and perceptions of serving size. Their work appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research. Wansink and Van Ittersum found that a dinner plate size significantly impacts food consumption. The professors asked Georgia Tech students to do various tasks of serving food. In one test, the students were to serve the same diameter (which represented the black dot in the center of the Delboeuf diagram) onto dinner plates of varying sizes, which represented the outer circles of Delboeuf’s diagram.

What they found was the students served more food on the larger plates. They repeatedly underserved onto the smaller plates and overserved onto the larger ones. The students were unaware that they were doing this. The results demonstrated that the size of dinnerware you use to serve yourself on a day-to-day basis may significantly influence how much food you consume.

Van Ittersum said, "We are oftentimes our own worst enemy. And that's not because we want to overeat." Van Ittersum said that the illusion is embedded so deeply in our brains it is nearly impossible to overcome. Even telling test subjects about it ahead of time, as they did in another phase of the research, didn't eliminate the bias.

Other researchers also measured serving behavior in the atmosphere of a buffet line. They found the same results. People underserved and overestimated on small dishes, while the reverse was true for large dishes. People using the smallest dishes undershot the target serving by as much as 12 percent. But people using the largest dishes took up to 13 percent more food than they intended. Bottom line: reduce your portion sizes by using a salad plate for all your meals instead of a dinner plate. The typical round salad plate measures 7 inches in diameter. There are, however, some salad plate that measure 8.5 inches. Almost the size of a European dinner plate and the size of a dinner plate back in the 1900’s.

Manufactured And Processed Foods Are Contributing To Poor Health Later In Your Life

Here’s another sobering fact – 80 percent (that’s 8 out of 10) men and women over age 55 are prediabetic or diabetic. Diabetes is the 6th leading cause of death for men and women. Over a third of people with diabetes do not know they have it. That’s why diabetes is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer.” Being overweight is the number one factor increasing your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is often a lifestyle disease, and it’s preventable.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “A person with diabetes is at high risk of heart disease, stroke, and other serious complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, and amputation of a toe, foot, or leg. In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled as the U.S. population has aged and become more overweight.”

What does this mean? It means the cumulative effect of eating processed foods over the past 30 years is catching up. As we age, the chemicals used in food manufacturing accumulates in our bodies and contributes to today’s illnesses, such as Type 2 diabetes.

Being Overweight Is An Epidemic

The number of children in the United States under the age of 19 being overweight in 2018 has tripled compared to kids in the 1970’s. Research shows that twenty percent of kids ages between 6 to 19 are not just overweight, but obese. What this means is that 1 out of 5 kids are obese. If you look at yearbooks before 1980, you will notice there are few, if any, photos of overweight or fat students. Parents are teaching their kids the wrong eating habits. Youths are being influenced by television commercials promoting sugary cereals. Fast foods and microwave meals are quick and convenient. However, they are void of any nutritional value.

Americans spend more than $66 billion each year on weight loss products ranging from prepared meals, swanky gym memberships, pills, and other supplements. Yet, 71% of the U.S. adult population is overweight, of which 40% is clinically obese. It’s only getting worse. More than 90% of those who do lose weight gain it back. Some even more.

The reason being that diets are trendy, temporary, and hard to stick to. The better alternative is to make lifestyle changes to improve and change your eating habits. Unfortunately, most people use food for comfort and in social gatherings. Few, view food as fuel for your body. Your body is an amazing machine with incredible healing powers if provided the right fuel. Food is fuel for your body. Keep this mind the next time you reach for that cookie or order a piece of pie or cake for dessert.

If you are really concerned about your health, start reading the ingredients listed on the Nutrition Fact Label on food packaging. You will be shocked at what you are actually consuming.