Ultra-Processed Foods Fuel Obesity Rates

Food giants are profiting at society’s expense.

What’s happening: The majority of products sold by Big Food companies are unhealthy, according to a report from British charity Bite Back.

  • ~75% of sales come from products high in fat, sugar or salt.
  • Seven brands were behind 91% of all online advertising spend for chocolate, crisps and ice cream.
  • Most target children with appealing packaging and ads featuring cartoons.

Scaling up, Ferrero, Mondelēz and Unilever are bringing unhealthy snacks to new territories, causing experts to sound the alarm.

Profit and Loss

Sedentary lifestyles and high-calorie diets are a recipe for obesity.

  • 1B people globally now live with the disease.
  • Rates doubled for adults and quadrupled among children since 1990.

Taking a toll, in the UK, ~63% of adults are overweight or obese – with half of the daily diet dedicated to ultra-processed foods.

Costly consequences. While food companies cash in, the NHS spends billions treating the crisis – committing 40% of its budget to preventable conditions like CVD and hypertension, and roughly ~10% each on diabetes and mental health.

And according to a new meta-analysis, UPFs play at least a minor factor in 32 conditions, ranging from all-cause mortality to prostate cancer to depression and anxiety.

Takeaway: Policy change across marketing and labelling could slow Big Food down, and nutrition and exercise education could create more responsible buyers – but making healthier food the easier choice is one of the greatest global challenges we face.