In episode 109 of his video series, Dr. Larson discusses:

With all the many diets out there, it can be confusing to know which one is right for your health. And also, which foods help to decrease your risk of chronic illness and disease? What diet should you follow to reduce your risk of things like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity? Should you follow a low-carb, high-fat diet, or a high-fat, low-carb diet? And even if you look at the literature, it isn’t very clear cut. You can find all kinds of studies that say that a high-carb, low-fat diet is good, and then you can find many that say a low-carb, high-fat diet is the best way to eat.

But if you look deep into the way that the studies are conducted, like whether they are performed on human or animal subjects, there is one common denominator.  For testing purposes, the key factor is the removal of processed foods. When food is processed, we know that it makes it toxic. Even diets like Dean Ornish and the Mediterranean diet are based on high-carb, low-fat advice. But the carbs are high-quality, high-nutritious, natural foods like sweet potatoes and beans. When you eliminate the factor of processed foods, diets are healthier no matter which type, low or high-carb, you choose.

Right now, researchers are most concerned with “ultra-processed” foods. Ultra-processing is the new testing focus, and specifically, whether they are a risk factor for major diseases and mortality. The British Medical Journal, a top tier medical journal, published a few interesting studies just within the past couple of months.

In France, researchers took over one 105,000 adult subjects and evaluated their diets. They tracked the participants for ten years. The researchers were looking at health risk factors for death by cardiovascular disease, cerebral vascular disease, and coronary heart disease. They delved deep into all the diets, and what they found was that the higher the consumption of processed foods, the greater the degree of risk death for all three diseases. The statistics were that for every ten percent of ultra-processed food consumption, there was an eleven, twelve, and thirteen percent increase of disease for the three conditions, respectively.


What is ultra-processed food? You probably think, “Well I don’t eat ultra-processed foods”. But ultra-processed foods are everyday things like soda, packaged chips, cookies and crackers, frozen dinners, even dehydrated vegetable soup. Most of the foods that are considered ultra-processed you probably wouldn’t even think of. There are estimates that, in some communities, consumption of ultra-processed foods is about 67% of a person’s diet. And they are the common cause of the risk of a fatal disease.



Another study out of Spain looked at almost 20,000 subjects over ten years. The researchers in the study categorized foods. They categorized as many as 3,000-3,5000 different items and then rated them into degrees of processing. What the researchers found was that ultra-processed foods can significantly increase your risk of all-cause mortality.

They found that those who ate four or more servings a day of ultra-processed foods had an increased risk of 62% of all-cause mortality. To take it further, they also found that every one more serving, past the four servings a day, increased your risk of all-cause mortality by as much as an additional 18%. These are significant numbers and speaks to the commonality and benefit of removing processed foods from your diet, regardless of whether you eat a high-fat, low-carb diet or a low-carb, high fat-diet.

From general population studies, it is the processing of food that makes it toxic. The researchers in the Spain study then evaluated the flip side. They looked at what the diets that were lowest in ultra-processed foods did to the test subjects’ risk of all-cause mortality. And what they found was that the people who consumed the lowest amount of ultra-processed foods had a significant decrease in risk factor for all-cause mortality.

The researchers in these studies are pretty passionate and called for legislative policy changes to make a strong effort to educate the public about these foods and that they are killing people in multiple ways.

These are high-quality studies. And although they point at the association between ultra-processed foods and increase risks of disease, more research will be targeted to find out what the mechanism is, specifically what is happening in the body. Is it that ultra-processed foods are causing an imbalance in the microbiome, or is it inflammation?

We know that inflammation can increase risk factors of all sorts of things. Or, is it blood sugar dysregulation? Or is it potentially a combination of all of these effects that can lead to a cascade of disease in the body? The next set of studies will probably go into the mechanism of ultra-processed foods and why they cause a high degree of mortality in those who consume them. Until the answer is found, I will continue to read the literature and report it to you…stay tuned.


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