Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Ultra Processed Diets Shown To Cause Excessive Caloric Intake And Weight Gain

September 27, 2022

Nutrition, stress management, and sleep are the overlooked components of a patient’s recovery in our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy practices. These low hanging fruits are often easier to control and improve than the injured tissue’s path to recovery. Inherently we know nutrition is important and food that is fresher is more nutritious than food that is processed. Words of wisdom including, avoid eating anything that won’t spoil or shop on the outer ring of the supermarket, allude to the idea that the most healthy foods are those which are least processed. Unfortunately, in our quick, cheap, and easy society high quality foods can be overlooked for those that never spoil, are pre packaged, and easier to consume. A recent well designed trial explains the impacts of these diet categories on caloric intake and weight gain.

Hall and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial to compared relative amounts of processed food dietary intake on weight gain (Clinical and Translational Report. 2019). Authors randomized 20 in patient adults to receive either an ultra processed or unprocessed diet for 2 weeks before being switched to the other diet for the final 2 weeks of the study. Each diet was matched for calories, sugar, fat, fiber, and other macronutrients. Each participant was advised they could consume as much or as little as they wanted of the provided foods. As expected, participants consumed 500 calories more of the ultra processed diet vs. the unprocessed foods. These calories were derived from increased fat and carbohydrate, but not protein, intake. Interestingly, participants gained 2 pounds in the 2 weeks of the processed diet and lost 2 pounds on the unprocessed diet. Authors continue to study why highly processed foods lead to increased caloric intake, but the primary hypothesis includes the rapid increase in digestive enzymes, cellular processes, and digestive speed required to process this type of food.