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The Problem With Whining About Processed Food

It is the latest assault on all this capitalist modernity, that processed food is bad for you. Instead we should all be eating stuff that has never seen the inside of a factory. Because, you know, Rousseau and eating the acorns that falleth upon the bonce.

One entrant into the tidal wave of whines:

Processed food ages your body and increases risk of a host of diseases
The University of Navarra in Spain studied 900 men and women, examined their diets and the sections of DNA which are a marker of age

This is to miss the point entirely. Not eating processed food may keep those telomeres nice and long but it will also make them nicely cool and immobile – food for the worms even.

Processed food ages the body as well as increasing the risk of a host of diseases, Spanish research suggests.
The study of 900 men and women, with an average age of 68, examined their diets, and the sections of DNA which are a marker of biological age.
Short telomeres indicate biological changes at a cellular level, and are associated with ageing.
Those who ate more convenience foods, and less fresh fare, were twice as likely to have short telomeres, the study found.
The research by the University of Navarra, presented at the International Conference on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) online, found that as consumption of “ultra processed” foods increased, the likelihood of having shortened telomeres rose dramatically.
Such foods include ready meals, processed meats and other convenience snacks and meals.

This is to miss the point entirely. Processing food is, largely enough, to preserve it. Bacon is a manner of having pork three weeks after one did away with the pig. Ketchup means tomatoes 6 months after the crop. A world without processed food is one in which eating comes in fits and starts – the gaps between often imposing crash diets unto the point of becoming worm food.

As has been pointed out before:

Telomeres aren’t important in their length in societies where 30 is a grand old age.

Oh, and to add to the capitalist free marketry wonders. It is, today as it was not before, possible for us to all eat fresh, not processed, food. Because we now have a vast global logistics chain which delivers fresh food to us all. When we each raise and kill our own pig we cannot live upon fresh pork. It’s only when we raise millions, then eat each some small fraction a day, that we can do without bacon and ham and preserved lard and salamai and smoked sausage and canned Spam and…..

It’s that very industrialised agriculture that allows us, if we should so wish, to stop using he preservation and processing methods of the old days. What cannot happen is local food, peasant supply systems, and fresh food all the time – why do you think our peasant forbears processed their food in the first place?

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3 years ago

The latest figure I saw for global population is about 7 billion. If we all tried to live that nice organic way it wouldn’t exceed 7 million.

3 years ago

As always: Societies that eat processed food differ from those that don’t in many other ways, some of which may be the real thing that affects the telomeres. For example, a work schedule where you have to catch dinner at the chip house might be more stressful than a day spent washing clothes at the edge of the river until the sunlight fails. And yes, life may be so much longer that telomeres become relevant when they never used to be. (Never mind! we have a point to make, and it’s “science”!)

John B
John B
3 years ago

‘Those who ate more convenience foods, and less fresh fare, were twice as likely to have short telomeres, the study found.’

Any other confounding factors, lifestyle, work, wealth status? For example: were convenience food eaters less wealthy, work long hours, smoke, drink more?

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
3 years ago
Reply to  John B

In other words, did they enjoy life more? I can think of a few ways in which selection bias skewed the sample. Frog zample a diet short of processed foods may even be less healthy, requiring its followers to be genetically superior specimens in order to survive it. People who go out of their way to avoid processed foods may have a high correlation with nutters, and nutters have OCD on health issues, so it isn’t the absence of horrid processed foods that created the health, it’s that the health nutters avoid the horrid processed foods, which may or may… Read more »

3 years ago

*ALL* food is processed unless you eat it straight out of the dirt. Even washing the muck off a carrot is processing. Processing of food has been the biggest boon to humanity *EVER*. As out host points out, it allows you to eat tomorrow what is available today but nonexistant tomorrow.

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