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Super Processed Foods Make You Eat More And Gain Weight

Forget salt, sugar and fat, it's ultra-processed foods we need to worry about, according to a new study.

A study from The US National Institute of Health indicates that highly processed foods like pizza, chips, muffins and lollies, may be affecting the body's hunger hormones, leading people to eat much more.

To test the theory, scientists gathered 20 volunteers who agreed to give up a month of their life to live in a laboratory.

For two weeks, they were forced to eat ultra-processed meals, their diets were switched to unprocessed ones for the second half of the study.

Despite all meal servings matched calorie for calorie, participants could eat as much as they wanted, but every skerrick was recorded.

ultra-processed foods. Photo: GETTY

Scientists found that the group ate 500 calories a day more when they were eating ultra-processed foods, leading to a weight gain of about one kilogram.

"This is the first study to demonstrate that there is a causal relationship," lead researcher Dr Kevin Hall told the BBC.  "Ultra-processed foods led to increases in calorie intake and in body weight and in fat. It's suggestive that this may be playing a role in the larger population."

He admits that there isn't a definitive explanation for ultra-processed food, but described it as like "pornography -- it's hard to define but you know it when you see it".

He said the foods to watch out for usually have ingredients you can't pronounce, more than five of them, and are anything your grandmother wouldn't recognise as food.

The reason why people are hungrier on an ultra-processed diet remains up in the air.

Fats are an essential part of a healthy diet and necessary for longevity. Photo: GETTY.

Researchers believe the hormones may have something to do with it, while the fact people eat fresh foods slower, giving our bodies more time to register the fact that our belly is full before overeating.

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While the study has established a relationship between processed foods, calorie intake and weight gain, the study should be taken with a grain of salt, as it was carried out on a limited number of people for a short period of time.

You can read the full study here at Cell Metabolism.