Processed Versus Unprocessed Foods

Processed foods lack nutrients and cause weight gain

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Achieving and maintaining an ideal weight is a challenge for most people. And while calorie counting has been a tried-and-true method for weight control, something else may be even better.

Some people may not realize there is such thing as “good” and “bad” foods. New research has found that eating certain types of food increase age-related, long-term weight gain.

"Lose weight by eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods."

This study followed more than 120,000 individuals for 12 to 20 years. Participants were asked to complete questionnaires on physical activity, television habits, alcohol use, sleep duration and diet. Weight was measured every four years.

Lead study author, Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health, found that eating more whole foods, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, is more likely to keep excess weight off in the long run.

Additionally, staying physically active and getting a good amount of sleep – more than six and less than eight hours per night — were linked with less weight gain. The researchers also found that for every hour of TV watched per day, participants gained about a third of a pound.

Specific foods like potato chips, sugar-sweetened drinks, processed meats and red meats had the most impact on weight gain, while whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, yogurt and nuts were found to add less weight over time.

Processed foods lack the nutrients, such as fiber, that are filling and give people a feeling of satiety or fullness. This can lead to overeating, which results in consuming more calories. Dr. Hu says it’s not just about calorie counting like some people think, there is a difference between good and bad foods.

The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 13, 2011
Last Updated:
July 16, 2011