More Weight Gain from Ultra-Processed Foods than from Minimally Processed Foods

A study by researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institute of Health (NIH) published May 16, 2019 in Cell Metabolism showed that people who ate ultra-processed food gained more weight than people who ate minimally processed food, even though they each had the same amount of calories and macronutrients.

The NOVA Classification System

The NOVA Classification system defines ultra-processed foods as those whose ingredients are mainly found in industrial food manufacturing such as hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, emulsifiers and flavoring agents.


The participants in the study were 20 healthy adult volunteers (10 men and 10 women) and this was the first randomized controlled trial to examine the effects of ultra-processed foods. The trial took place for one month in the NIH Clinical Center where the participants were given foods that were either ultra-processed or minimally processed.

Participants Were Given Each Kind of Food for 14 Days

The participants were given one kind of food for 14 days and then the other kind of food was also taken for 14 days. Both groups of foods contained the same amounts of calories, fat, sugars, sodium, fiber and carbohydrates. The participants were allowed to eat as much or as little as they wanted. The result was some people got extra calories. Also, people gained weight on ultra-processed foods and then lost weight when they switched to the minimally processed foods.

Previous Research

Previous research showed associations between diets that contained large amounts of processed foods and health problems. The results showed that ultra-processed foods caused people to over-eat and to gain weight.


The researchers concluded that cutting back on highly processed food might help people maintain a normal weight to prevent obesity. Cutting back on processed food could also be a way for people to lose weight.

The Worldwide Obesity Epidemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers obesity to be a worldwide epidemic and obesity is at an all-time high rate in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more In 2015-16, 39.8% of all Americans were obese and about 93.3 million American adults were obese. The estimated yearly medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion US dollars and the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. Obesity affects 41% of seniors over age 60 in the United States and being overweight and having a high body mass is a high risk factor for many preventable diseases that you can read more about in our blog post from June 15, 2018.

Preventing Obesity by Healthy Living

It is very important to follow healthy eating patterns and to get a lot of physical exercise.

 Choose My Plate and Dietary Guidelines

Healthy eating habits are a key factor for a healthy weight. Visit the ChooseMyPlate website by the US Department of Agriculture and see the Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. Here you can look up nutritional information about foods and find really delicious and healthy recipes. You can also find help with planning meals and learn how to eat healthy even if you are on a tight budget.


Physical activity is important for health and a healthy weight. Learn about different kinds of physical activity and the guidelines for the amount needed each day with free lessons and videos at the Go4Life website of the National Institute of Aging.

Short-term Rehabilitation and Long-term Skilled Nursing Facility

If you are searching for a short-term rehab or skilled long-term nursing care solution for your loved one, then look for a place that puts emphasis on good nutrition like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing.

Van Duyn has a great chef who prepares nutritious healthy meals under the supervision and guidance of a registered dietitian. Special dietary needs are accommodated with a variety of selections, so that there is something to please everyone’s tastes.


If you or your loved one are overweight, it pays to make lifestyle changes and to bring your weight down in the hope you can avoid many chronic and dangerous diseases.


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