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Sigma Nutrition Radio

Nov 29, 2022


About this episode:

Over the past decade, the increasing uptake and acceptance of the Nova food processing classification system has placed focus on one of the categories in Nova; ultra-processed foods (UPFs). Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are products created from deconstructed (and recombined) food components, usually with the goal of creating a highly palatable, convenient, and profitable product. This typically means such products are high in nutrients of content (e.g. sugar, sodium, saturated fat, etc.). But in addition, they have other characteristics that may make them detrimental to health, particularly when they replace unprocessed or minimally processed foods in the diet.

There is now clear evidence showing that when such products make up a large proportion of the diet, such a dietary pattern has negative health effects. However, there are still many unanswered questions and many debates within nutrition science about how to best classify UPFs, to what degree they need to be limited, whether some can be beneficial, and what to do with policy going forward.

To offer one perspective on this issue, Associate Professor of Food Politics and Policy at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Gyorgy Scrinis, is on the podcast to discuss his work in the area.

While we have discussed the problem of reductionism in nutrition science previously on the podcast, Dr. Scrinis’ use of the term ‘reductionism’ does differ a bit from the way others use the term. For example, he suggests that nutrition science has been too reductive even at the food-level and dietary-pattern level.

His work on ultra-processed foods and the Nova classification system has attempted to understand the technological and corporate character of ultra-processed foods, the power of food corporations, and how food corporations shape and capture nutrition science for the purposes of promoting and defending their products.