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What Ultra Processed Food Does To Your Body

I was doing a bit of Youtube research recently and came across this experiment by Dr Chris van Tulleken. In it he embarked on an ultra-processed 30 day diet to find out what effect that it had on his health. The results were shocking. Give the video below a watch and we’ll get on to the analysis.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that the findings were shocking. When the big before and after reveal happened it showed his appearance transformed from a typical healthy male of his age to being bloated looking and significantly larger. This was just after 30 days.

It must be said that this is an extreme example where he was getting 80% of his intake from ultra processed meals. This is an extremely high percentage but 1/5 of UK adults actually have this much processed food or more. From that statistic alone it’s clear to see why we are in the middle of an obesity epidemic.

The Health Impact of The Experiment

Another thing to note is the addictiveness of this type of food. Dr van Tulleken himself said that it was, “tickling a part of his brain” and was “hyper-palatable”. Following the rules of the experiment, he was only to eat when he felt hungry. Prior to the experiment Chris said that he would eat 3 meals a day and the odd snack. While following the ultra-processed diet he found himself eating and snacking far more.

While adjusting to the diet for a couple of weeks Dr Tulleken was struggling with constipation, sleep, dullness and headaches, comparing how he felt to “having a hang over”. Again this points to the addictive nature of these foods.

Dr van Tulleken before and after

After 30 days Dr van Tulleken was 6.5KG heavier, with an increased BMI and body fat percentage. They extrapolated that data to project that if he kept up that diet for 6 months he would gain 6 stone. The hunger hormone in his blood went up by 30% and a decrease in the ‘fullness’ hormone. A brain scan showed many new connections in the brain that they believe were between the reward centres of the brain and the areas that control repetitive behavior.

Like I said earlier, this is a very extreme scenario in a loosely controlled setting. In real life it’s unlikely that an individual will be eating an 80-20 Ultra-processed diet consistently for 6 months. It will fluctuate up and down. Also, as is made clear in the video, not all ultra-processed food is high in fat and sugars. So it is likely possible to have a high percentage of “good” Ultra-processed food and still be relatively healthy.

As a Health and Wellness coach, I believe even 80% “good” processed food in your diet is far from optimal. I believe that this experiment shows that. Dr Chris van Tulleken has went on record and said, “I felt like I aged 10 years”. I think we can all relate when we’ve been a bit hedonistic.

Perhaps you’re the kind of person who’s not really paid attention to their processed food intake in the past. Maybe you’ve suffered the same challenges as Dr. van Tulleken with your current food choices. Hopefully that watching this video and reading my analysis has made you be a bit more mindful of what you’re eating.

You might need help to make those changes though. That’s where we come in.

If you are ready to adopt better eating habits and invest in your health and wellness get in touch and we’ll get you booked in for a Success Session.

Until next time, “Strength for Life”


Davie McConnachie

Davie McConnachie is Scotland’s leading health and wellness coach, multi-award-winning gym owner, motivational speaker and the founder of DMC Fitness, a fitness education facility known as the premier choice for 1-2-1 personal training. He has inspired thousands of people to fall in love with fitness – his true purpose and mission in life.

Diving into the world of fitness and wellness has helped Davie to deal with his own trauma and inner demons. He, overcame many dark times using his own unique methods to continue his cycle of healing.