Ultra-Processed People by Chris van Tulleken [8/10]

Ultra-Processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food … and Why Can’t We Stop?” has a title that hardly welcomes the reader, but this is an important book written with scorching rage and a vivid style. The author, a doctor and TV presenter, tackles the modern obesity and ill-health epidemic through the lens of the super-highly-processed food that many of us eat in huge quantities. It’s a fascinating tale, unwound through the tales of scientists (belatedly) classifying food into four categories, with UPFs (ultra processed foods) being industrial formulations that bear no relationship to real foods but are dressed up as equivalent to real food or (often) improved foods. Scientists then begin to decipher how UPFs underlie many of the dietary, weight, and health ills besetting us. The author excoriates the food industry while admitting the industry, driven by shareholders’ pressures, seems to have little choice. The solution, he writes, must be aggressive, adversarial regulation forcing the industry to reveal what its products really are. The author illuminates the story with anecdotes from his own life, including the weight battles he and his twin brother, Xand (also a doctor and TV presenter), endured (my own enjoyment was greatly enhanced by “bonus” discussions between the two of them on the audiobook). I’m already a disciple of the WFPB (whole foods, plant based) diet, but for those of you still eating what supermarkets mostly sell, this book has the cojones and factual rigor and persuasiveness to change your lives.

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