The Science Behind the Food That Isn't Food
by Chris van Tulleken
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Pub Date 27 Jun 2023 | Archive Date 31 May 2023
A manifesto to change how you eat and how you think about the human body.
It’s not you, it’s the food.
We have entered a new age of eating. For the first time in human history, most of our calories come from an entirely novel set of substances called Ultra-Processed Food. There’s a long, formal scientific definition, but it can be boiled down to this: if it’s wrapped in plastic and has at least one ingredient that you wouldn’t find in your kitchen, it’s UPF.
These products are specifically engineered to behave as addictive substances, driving excess consumption. They are now linked to the leading cause of early death globally and the number one cause of environmental destruction. Yet almost all our staple foods are ultra-processed. UPF is our food culture and for many people it is the only available and affordable food.
In this book, Chris van Tulleken, father, scientist, doctor, and award-winning BBC broadcaster, marshals the latest evidence to show how governments, scientists, and doctors have allowed transnational food companies to create a pandemic of diet-related disease. The solutions don’t lie in willpower, personal responsibility, or exercise. You’ll find no diet plan in this book—but join Chris as he undertakes a powerful self-experiment that made headlines around the world: under the supervision of colleagues at University College London he spent a month eating a diet of 80 percent UPF, typical for many children and adults in the United States. While his body became the subject of scientific scrutiny, he spoke to the world’s leading experts from academia, agriculture, and—most important—the food industry itself. But more than teaching him about the experience of the food, the diet switched off Chris’s own addiction to UPF.
In a fast-paced and eye-opening narrative he explores the origins, science, and economics of UPF to reveal its catastrophic impact on our bodies and the planet. And he proposes real solutions for doctors, for policy makers, and for all of us who have to eat. A book that won’t only upend the way you shop and eat, Ultra-Processed People will open your eyes to the need for action on a global scale.
About the Author: Chris van Tulleken has a medical degree from Oxford and a PhD in molecular virology. He is an associate professor at University College London and a practicing infectious diseases doctor. A broadcaster for children and adults on BBC television and radio, he has won two BAFTAs and lives with his family in London.
"If you only read one diet or nutrition book in your life, make it this one. It will not only change the way you eat but the way you think about food. And it does all this without a hint of finger-wagging or body shaming. I came away feeling so much better informed about every aspect of ultra-processed food, from the way it affects the microbes in our gut to why it is so profitable to produce to why it’s so hard to eat only a single bowl of Coco Pops to why any food that is marketed as ‘better for you’ is almost certainly not." - Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork and The Secret of Cooking
"A devastating, witty, and scholarly destruction of the shit food we eat and why." - Adam Rutherford, author of Control and co-author of The Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything* (*Abridged)
"A wonderful and fascinating exposé of ultra-processed food, edible substances with strange sounding ingredients which are manufactured by some of the wealthiest companies on the planet and which, worryingly, form an increasing part of our diet. As Chris shows, not only have these foods been formulated to ensure that we eat them constantly and without thought, but they hijack our ability to regulate what we eat, primarily by affecting our brains. And he backs up his claims with a powerful self-experiment, along with lots of rigorous and often shocking research. Reading this book will make you question what you eat and how it was produced." - Dr. Michael Mosley, BBC presenter and bestselling author of The FastDiet
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