Ultra-processed food

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Ultra-processed food is a concept devised by the Brazilian nutrition researcher Carlos Monteiro.[1] As of 2018 the concept is loose and evolving.[2]

The NOVA classification[edit]

Monteiro uses the term to refer to the processing of substances derived from foods by e.g. baking, frying, extruding, moulding, re-shaping, hydrogenation and hydrolysis. They generally include a large number of additives such as preservatives, sweeteners, sensory enhancers, colorants, flavours and processing aids, but little or no whole food. They may be fortified with micronutrients. The aim is to create durable, convenient and palatable ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat food products suitable to be consumed as snacks or to replace freshly prepared food-based dishes and meals.[3][non-primary source needed]. NOVA is a food classification system based on the extent and purpose of industrial food processing and validated by PAHO.

The utility of the NOVA classification has been subject to criticism.[4]

Press coverage[edit]

The French longitudinal study[5] showing a correlation between "ultra-processed food" and cancer risk prompted a number of news outlets to run alarmist headlines claiming that eating such food caused cancer – these headlines were based on a common misunderstanding between correlation and causation.[6]


  1. ^ Boseley S (14 February 2018). "Ultra-processed foods may be linked to cancer, says study". The Guardian.
  2. ^ Monge, Adriana; Lajous, Martin (2018). "Ultra-processed foods and cancer". BMJ. 360: k599. doi:10.1136/bmj.k599. PMID 29444772.
  3. ^ Monteiro, C. A; Moubarac, J.-C; Cannon, G; Ng, S. W; Popkin, B (2013). "Ultra-processed products are becoming dominant in the global food system" (PDF). Obesity Reviews. 14: 21–28. doi:10.1111/obr.12107. PMID 24102801.
  4. ^ Gibney, M.J.; Forde, C.G.; Mullally, D.; Gibney, E.R. Ultra-processed foods in human health: A critical appraisal. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2017, 106, 717–724. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.160440
  5. ^ Fiolet, Thibault; Srour, Bernard; Sellem, Laury; Kesse-Guyot, Emmanuelle; Allès, Benjamin; Méjean, Caroline; Deschasaux, Mélanie; Fassier, Philippine; Latino-Martel, Paule; Beslay, Marie; Hercberg, Serge; Lavalette, Céline; Monteiro, Carlos A; Julia, Chantal; Touvier, Mathilde (2018). "Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: Results from Nutri Net-Santé prospective cohort". BMJ. 360: k322. doi:10.1136/bmj.k322. PMC 5811844. PMID 29444771.
  6. ^ Lomangino K (15 February 2018). "'Ultra-processed' foods and cancer: Headlines show the right way, and the wrong way, to frame study results". Health News Review.