The Machiavellianism Surrounding Our Foods Today

The history of processed foods

Processed food is food that has been altered from the condition in which they are grown or harvested to conserve them better and feed users. Procedures that change food from its natural state are washing, packaging, cleaning, mixing, milling, dehydrating, cutting, drying, chopping, freezing, pasteurizing, canning, blanching, and cooking (Jones and Clemens 120). Food processing also involves adding other elements to the food, such as nutrients, preservatives, salts, flavors, sugars, and fats. The inclusion of elements may increase, decrease, or leave the raw agricultural food’s nutritional features unaffected. Processed foods have become popular in the United States and the global food system. The use of ultra-processed food has significantly escalated over the past twenty years across nearly all segments of the US population (Juul et al. 220). This essay discusses a brief history of food processing, the physical and mental risks of processed foods, and the injustice surrounding food corporations’ advertising of processed foods.

Food processing started in prehistoric periods. As animal husbandry and agriculture developed, it was critical to preserve food to prevent losses due to spoiling and have food for use during periods of scarcity (Weaver et al. 1525). Cooking was the first form of food processing. Cooking improved food safety, palatability, and digestibility during the prehistoric period. More complicated forms of processed foods were developed during ancient and medieval times. These food processing procedures were fermenting, steaming vegetables, sun-drying, bread baking, pickling vegetables, smoking, and salting meats. Industrialization also contributed to the development of food processing. Some food processing procedures such as pasteurization, chilling, spray drying, canning, and refrigeration were invented. The 20th century saw mass-scale food production and processing. By the end of the 20th century, several other processed foods such as frozen meals, reconstituted juices and fruits, and instant soups were developed. The innovation of food processing technologies has also enhanced food processing.

Physical health risks of processed foods

Processed foods have been linked with causing multiple chronic non-communicable diseases. For instance, consuming processed foods increases the likelihood of cardiovascular and heart condition. According to Srour et al., eating ultra-processed foods increases occurence of coronary heart and cerebrovascular conditions (1). In this study, increasing ultra-processed foods in the diet by 10% was related to a more than 10% change in overall prevalence of cerebrovascular, cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases. Several ultra-processed foods contain proportionately high glucose-derived glycation end products that lead to and accelerate the vascular disease. Also, people who consume ultra-processed foods have a minimal intake of fruits and vegetables, which are beneficial to cardiometabolic health. Poor intake of fresh fruits and vegetable leads to poor diet quality, a risk factor for intensified cardiovascular mortality.

Processed food consumption raises the likelihood of developing cancer. Fiolet et al. indicate that an increase in the quantity of ultra-processed foods in the diet by 10% raises the likelihood of breast cancer by more than 10% (1). Processed red meat increases the likelihood of colon cancer. Mutagens in processed red meat alter genetic information by modifying DNA, while carcinogens are cancer-causing elements. The addition of preservatives elevates the cancer risk. Processed food also contains high sugar levels implicated in developing and developing different cancer types. Also, multiple ultra-processed foods such as sugary cereals, packaged baked snacks and ready meals increase the risk of particular cancer types.

Another potential physical health risk of consuming processed food is elevated cholesterol and obesity. Askari et al. posit a positive relationship between processed foods and overweight (1). This study found that this relationship is statistically significant. Processed foods contribute to this health problem because they contain higher saturated and trans fatty acids, sugar, and sodium levels. The foods also contain refined carbohydrates, which modify insulin levels and increase their impact on nutrients causing longer storage of nutrients in adipose tissue. The foods’ non-nutritional properties also increases the risk of developing obesity. The foods also contain fructose, sugar alcohols, and artificial sweeteners that elevate the likelihood of developing obesity. The foods are also packaged in plastic packages, and plasticizers associated with causing obesity. Obesity also increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Another physical health problem associated with processed food intake is high blood pressure/hypertension. A large prospective cohort identified a positive link between processed foods intake and hypertension risk (Mendonça et al. 358). For instance, the study indicates that consuming processed meat and sweetened beverages was directly associated with hypertension. The foods cause hypertension as they lead to increased intake of salt, saturated fats, and sugar and insufficient intake of fiber and micronutrients. Processed food elevates blood pressure because they contain high sodium and salt levels. Sodium makes the body to retain surplus fluid, which leads to a surge in blood pressure. Foods with high sodium levels include pizzas and frozen foods. Saturated foods increase the quantity of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. High LDL cholesterol levels cause accumulation of fatty deposits called plaques in the arteries, leaving minimal space for blood to flow. Due to the limited space, the heart pumps blood more forcefully, raising blood pressure.

Diabetes may also develop from the consumption of processed foods. Srour et al. support this by indicating that consuming processed food is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes (283). Processed foods are rich in sugar, fat, and energy and poorer in fiber, a type 2 diabetes risk factor. The foods also increase energy intake, which is associated with weight gain. Being overweight and having poor energy balance are linked with developing type 2 diabetes. Consuming processed foods leads to reduced consumption of vegetables, fruits, and grains, medically recommended for preventing diabetes. Some foods contain high sugar content that may lead to insulin resistance. It exacerbates Type 1 and type 2 diabetes by affecting blood glucose control.

The above paragraphs present evidence from primary studies indicating that consuming processed foods leads to chronic non-communicable conditions. Some of the conditions discussed above are cardiovascular and heart diseases, obesity, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes. Some of these diseases are risk factors for others. For instance, being obese is a risk factor for hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases (Powell-Wiley et al. e984). Due to these comorbidities, people consuming processed foods face the risk of developing multiple chronic conditions. Due to these conditions and comorbidities, individuals consuming processed foods experience a higher all-cause mortality risk than those with minimum or non-processed food intake. Therefore, processed foods are a significant cause of physical health problems.

Mental health risks of processed foods

In addition to physical health problems, processed foods also cause mental health issues. For instance, consuming these foods causes depressive symptoms. A web-based observational cohort study reported that ultra-processed foods consumption positively correlates with incident depressive symptoms (Adjibade et al. 11). This study also indicates that a diet rich in high-fat dairy products, read meat, sweets, refined grains, processed meat, high-fat gravy, potatoes, and butter is linked with an elevated risk of depression. These foods restrain the intake of bioactive micronutrients that contribute to preventing depression. This link could partly occur due to the impact of some non-nutrient elements used for or added during processing. Processed foods contain additives and molecules produced using high temperatures, which may alter gut microbiota that have interrelations with mental health (Adjibade et al. 10). Some food additives may induce depression symptoms and increase individuals’ susceptibility to depressor stimuli.

Processed may also cause anxiety symptoms. Coletro et al., in an epidemiological household survey, reported that high use of ultra-processed foods results in higher occurrence of anxiety symptoms (206). The study indicates that consuming foods rich in sugars and carbohydrates increases the susceptibility to mental illnesses because they increase neuroinflammation within the hippocampus.

Evidence presented in this section from primary studies support that processed foods cause mental health issues such as anxiety disorder and depression. Therefore, individuals with a regular processed food intake face an elevated likelihood of developing anxiety and depression symptoms. These mental illnesses may result in cognitive impairments and memory deficits.

How food corporations manipulate masses to consume processed food

Processed food manufacturers significantly contribute to the current surge in intake of processed foods through their marketing of addictive unhealthy ingredients. For instance, manufacturers market processed and unhealthy foods and beverages to children. Smith et al. note that manufacturers use sophisticated, extensive, and persuasive marketing techniques focusing on children, such as having a strong presence on televisions, websites, and product placement and promotion in supermarkets and outside schools (1). Children are highly susceptible to persuasive messages used in marketing communications as they interpret the messages as factual, leading to increased intake of processed foods among children and adolescents. Food manufacturers also employ manipulative marketing techniques such as creating associations between food products and attractive features, and strategic product placements that may disable rational reflection and autonomous decision-making (Tempels, Blok, and Verweij 11). These manipulative strategies create a perception that processed foods are more convenient and cheaper, influencing ore people to consume these foods. For instance, fast foods sold in restaurants are perceived as convenient and cheaper than more healthy alternatives.


Processed food refers to food that has been altered from the condition in which they are grown and harvested to preserve them better and feed users. Food processing also involves adding other elements to the food, such as nutrients, flavors, salts, preservatives, sugars, and fats. Adding more ingredients may increase, decrease, or leave the raw agricultural food’s nutritional features unaffected. Processed food has been linked with multiple physical and mental illnesses. This essay indicates that processed foods lead to chronic non-communicable conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes. Mental conditions caused by a high intake of processed foods are depression and anxiety disorder. Therefore, processed foods consumption is a significant public health issue that needs immediate measures.