Study: Processed foods highly correlated to US obesity epidemic

Half of US Adults Will Be Obese by 2030, Says Study. Conducted by scientists at Harvard and George Washington University, the study was published Wednesday in the 'New England Journal of Medicine.'. It was funded by the JPB Foundation, an organization that focuses on poverty and other sociological issues. The study also found that nearly a quarter of Americans will be severely obese. In 44 states, severe obesity is on track to be the most common weight category among households with an average

A recent study revealed that as more U.S. residents are consuming processed foods, obesity may become more widespread.

The findings were published in the journal, “Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology.” In it, researcher Leigh A. Frame, Ph.D. surveyed food trends and discovered people are putting cheaper, more convenient food first. But that food is also highly processed. According to Science Daily, Frame says consumers need detailed recommendations to improve the quality of their diets and nutrition in general.

» RELATED: CDC: Georgia adult obesity rate above U.S. average — and keeps rising

"When comparing the U.S. diet to the diet of those who live in ‘blue zones’ — areas with populations living to age 100 without chronic disease — the differences are stark," said Frame, who co-authored the article. "Many of the food trends we reviewed are tied directly to a fast-paced U.S. lifestyle that contributes to the obesity epidemic we are now facing."

Eating processed foods has been found to be correlated to the increased obesity rates across the nation as well as a rise in chronic diseases associated with obesity. Desserts, potato chips, refined grains, sugar-sweetened drinks, red and processed meats are among the foods most associated with weight gain, according to the article.

Aside from consuming processed foods, insufficient dietary fiber intake, a dramatic increase in food additives like emulsifiers and gums, and a higher prevalence of women’s obesity in particular, were among the trends discovered.

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Recent studies have shown that the more processed the food, the less fullness was reported in participants. People in the trial also ate their meals more quickly and had worsened biochemical markers, which serve as an aid in diagnosing diseases. Such markers include those for weight gain, inflammation and cholesterol. Comparatively, people living in “blue zones” consume less meat and more dietary fiber, for example, and have much lower rates of chronic diseases and obesity.

The study follows a Lancet report that found a link between under-nutrition and rising obesity rates.

"The quality of the food is absolutely poor," Insider reported Francesco Branca, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, said on a call with reporters. "So, not enough vitamins and minerals, and cheap food, high in fat, sugar and salt."

The prevalence of obesity is especially widespread in Georgia, which ranks in the top 20 for the most overweight residents. The state also has an adult obesity rate above the U.S. — and it continues to rise.