Processed food, now seen across the globe, is contributing to the rapid rise in obesity.
Over the past few decades, the food environment has changed dramatically. Most notably, there has been a significant increase in processed foods which are widely available, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor, affordable and heavily promoted. The desirable taste and textures of processed foods, combined with the appealing packaging and extensive marketing, are associated with brain appetitive control systems that increase appetite, food motivation, and food reward value and can result in increased food intake. Typically, processed foods are also much cheaper than more nutritionally beneficial and unprocessed foods which further displaces healthy food consumption, especially in more disadvantaged populations.
The obesity epidemic has emerged in the last 40 years, and mirrors these changes in the food environment. Once associated with Western diets, the increase in processed foods is now seen in many low- and middle-income countries and is undermining local diets and contributing to the rapid rise in obesity.