A study titled “The Unseen Dangers of Ultra-Processed Food”, published by the Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest – India (NAPi India), a group that focuses on nutrition and public health. The document, authored by Dr. Arun Gupta, a pediatrician and public health nutritionist associated with NAPi India, provides an in-depth analysis of the shift from ‘real food’ to processed and ultra-processed foods and its implications on health. This work is part of NAPi India’s ongoing efforts in collaboration with the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) to promote optimal nutrition practices and advocate for public health policies.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) emphasizes the importance of a healthy diet for optimal growth and cognitive development, especially during the first two years of a child’s life. However, the modern diet has seen a shift from ‘real food’ to processed and ultra-processed foods.

Black female shopper reading label on food in supermarket

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The Shift to Processed Foods

Historically, diets consisted of ‘real food’ like meals prepared and cooked with additional condiments and spices. However, modern times have seen a surge in the consumption of processed foods, which are high in salt and sugar. These processed foods are fast replacing real foods globally, and India is no exception.

NOVA Classification of Foods

To understand the impact of different food groups on health, the NOVA classification was developed. It divides foods into four groups: unprocessed or minimally processed foods, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods, and ultra-processed foods. The classification helps identify which food groups cause more harm than others.

Health Implications of Ultra-Processed Foods

Scientific research has found associations between levels of consumption of ultra-processed foods and various health outcomes. Increased consumption of these foods leads to greater eating rate and weight gain, despite the same calorie count. Negative health impacts include obesity, asthma, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, depression, and other conditions.

Marketing Tactics and Consumer Awareness

Ultra-processed foods are aggressively marketed, often targeting children and adolescents. They are advertised with health claims and projected as equivalent to real foods. However, consumers can make informed choices by being aware and learning to identify the food before buying or eating.


The document recommends eating real foods to boost immunity and beat obesity. It also advises checking if the food is ultra-processed before deciding whether to eat it or give it to children. It encourages consumers not to be misled by advertisements and to tinvestigate the ingredients throughly.


The shift towards ultra-processed foods poses significant health risks. It is crucial to be aware of these risks and make informed dietary choices. The document “The Unseen Dangers of Ultra-Processed Food” provides valuable insights into this issue and serves as a guide for healthier eating habits.