I hear a lot of people talk about how bad processed foods are for you, but I am having trouble finding supporting evidence.

I can certainly understand that such foods are not healthy per se, but when people make positive claims they they are damaging to your health, then I would like to see some evidence.

I came across this question which does not really answer my question above. It mentions some theories, but no real evidence or studies.

From what I can find, the few things that may be harmful to you are only harmful in mass amounts, significantly more than any person is going to consume in a server.

I would think it stands to reason that in developed countries the relevant governmental department such as the FDA ensures the food sold is not harmful to people. Certainly they may cause weight gain or hinder a healthy lifestyle, but that is quite a separate thing from actually causing any damaging condition such as diabetes or cancer or problems with various organs.

Which is not to say that these foods are not doing that, but from what I can tell we have no evidence to support the claim that they are at present. If anyone could point me in the direction of such studies or evidence, that would be great.

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    Can you be more specific about what foods and/or what processing you're asking about? This question is too broad: "Exactly how bad is each and every type of processed food?" Also I'm not sure whether you can ask to exclude weight gain but include diabetes - I think those two may be linked. Also this principle suggests that you should phrase the question as "Are processed foods bad for you?"
    – ChrisW
    Jun 9, 2011 at 14:50
  • @chris no, I am asking in general. I don't just mean processed foods so have edited the title of my question to be more specific. For example, microwave burritos and BK stackers are quite different from homogenized milk(which is processed). I can exclude weight gain but not diabetes because while foods may lead to weight gain which increases the risk of diabetes, no foods AFAIK directly cause diabetes. Jun 9, 2011 at 15:23
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    So basically the claim you question is that processing food makes the food less healthy? The more processed food is, the worse for your health it is?
    – user288
    Jun 9, 2011 at 16:15
  • @Sejanus, I hesitantly say yes, as I don't know enough about processing. It seems that most people have a problem with additives and preservatives and similar thing, so limiting it to chemically treated seemed safer. Jun 9, 2011 at 16:27
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    @SonnyOrdell Unfortunately, that’s still not clear. Cooking is indubitably a chemical treatment. Worse: every natural additive is automatically a chemical additive. And now the obvious next question comes along: what, then, constitutes a non-natural (i.e. artifical) additive? Personally, I have no answer. As you can see, most of the paranoia around food processing is pur FUD. Jun 9, 2011 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


I hear a lot of people talk about how bad processed foods are for you, but I am having trouble finding supporting evidence.

The first google hit for 'health canada' and 'processed foods' is this one.

My summary:

One type of 'processed food' are the baked goods which are sold e.g. on supermarket shelves. These may be made with e.g. trans fats, which extend their shelf life (e.g. prevent them going stale within the first day of their being baked, like normal baked goods do if you live in France). An excess of trans fats is bad for you (for example: it promotes heart disease). The harm you incur from eating a single baked good isn't sufficient to justify outlawing it. Nevertheless, it's not the healthiest thing you could eat, and an excess of it is harmful.

For this reason, people are counselled to "avoid processed foods".

  • Trans fats are unsaturated fats, and therefore contain an unstable double bond. For a long shelf life, you'd use saturated fats. (for a healthy product, you'd use poly-unsaturated fats, which are even less stable - more unstable double bonds)
    – MSalters
    Jun 17, 2011 at 9:35
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    and it's not just so much the fats that are bad for you, as the massive doses of sugars and starch you get from processed foods, most of which use those for fillers.
    – jwenting
    Aug 9, 2011 at 5:59

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