Unfortunately, ultra-processed foods aren’t as readily condemned as tobacco. While we know that nicotine is addictive and that cigarettes deliver a range of carcinogens, there are many ways (yet no single way) that the standard American diet increases the risk of other causes of premature death. The interactions among calorie intake, exercise, fat accumulation, insulin resistance and genetic background, along with other environmental factors that cause diet-related diseases (such as stress and generational poverty), are variable and complicated.
What is indisputable is that a better diet leads to better health. And most people know that a “good” diet is one that cuts back on ultra-processed foods and substitutes relatively unprocessed plant foods. (You can tinker at the margins, but it’s pretty much that simple.) On this, all responsible global experts agree.
But knowledge and sound advice aren’t enough: When most choices are destructive, it’s hard to choose wisely. And between