UK is fast food capital of Europe – and it’s driving a mental health crisis

2023-03-15 22:49:23
UK is fast food capital of Europe – and it’s driving a mental health crisis

Rates of mental illness in the UK have been rising steadily for 30 years. One in six children aged five-16 now have a probable mental-health disorder.

Kimberley Wilson, a clinical psychologist with a degree in nutrition, in her new book, Unprocessed, at least partly pins the blame for this on ultra-processed food (UPF).

“So much of our diet is ultra-processed, but we just consider them normal foods: I think very few people would recognise baby formula or baby rusks as UPF, but by definition, they are,” says Wilson.

In Britain, people buy more UPFs than anywhere else in Europe: 50.7 per cent of our daily intake comes from ultra-processed food. For one in five young people, this figure is 78 percent.

UPFs are foods that are highly processed and industrially altered with additives and ingredients you wouldn’t find in your own kitchen, like colouring or emulsifiers. They are linked to rising obesity rates, type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer.

Research from Imperial College London found that the more UPFs a child eats, the greater their risk of becoming obese and, in adults, UPF consumption is linked with an increased risk of cancer overall, but particularly ovarian and brain cancers.

Crisps, cakes and fizzy drinks are UPFs, but so are supermarket loaves of bread, breakfast cereals and flavoured yoghurts.

What impact does this have? UPFs contain less brain-healthy nutrients than whole foods and fewer antioxidants. A diet high in UPFs also displaces key nutrients for brain health. UPFs limit variety: 75 per cent of the processed foods that make up the majority of the average diet in the UK are based on just five animals and 12 products.


Error! Error occured!