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In this 1-minute book review, Dr. Chris van Tulleken explores the science behind food and its impact on ultra-processed people.

Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn’t Food – by Dr. Chris van Tulleken

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It probably won’t come as a great surprise to any of our readers that ultra-processed food is—to make a sweeping generalization—not fabulous for the health. So, what does this book offer beyond that?

Perhaps this book’s greatest strength is in showing not just what ultra-processed foods are, but why they are. In principle, food being highly processed should be neither good nor bad by default. Much like GMOs, if a food is modified to be more nutritious, that should be good, right?

Only, that’s mostly not what happens. What happens instead is that food is modified (be it genetically or by ultra-processing) to be cheaper to produce, and thus maximise the profit margin.

The addition of a compound that increases shelf-life but harms the health, increases sales and is a net positive for the manufacturer, for instance. Dr. van Tulleken offers us many, many, examples and explanations of such cost-cutting strategies at our expense.

In terms of qualifications, the author has an MD from Oxford, and also a PhD, but the latter is in molecular virology; not so relevant here. Yet, we are not expected to take an “argument from authority”, and instead, Dr. van Tulleken takes great pains to go through a lot of studies with us—the good, the bad, and the misleading.

If the book has a downside, then this reviewer would say it’s in the format; it’s less a reference book, and more a 384-page polemic. But, that’s a subjective criticism, and for those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing that they like.

Click here to check out Ultra-Processed People, and understand better what you are putting in your body!

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