“Food faddists and pseudoscientists!”: Reflections on the history of resistance to ultra-processed foods

Alan C. Logan, Christopher R. D'Adamo, Joseph E. Pizzorno, Susan L. Prescott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term ‘ultra-processed food’ emerged in the 1980s, mostly used in reference to highly-processed convenience foods and snacks, often energy-dense, poor in nutrients, and inclusive of various synthetic additives such as emulsifiers, colors, artificial sweeteners, and/or flavor enhancers. Concern over such foods was part of the growing holistic and environmental health movements of the 1970–80s; yet, those who raised alarm about the encroachment of ultra-processed foods were often labeled, especially by industry and their powerful allies, as ‘food faddists’ and ‘pseudoscientists’. Today, the topic of ultra-processed foods is generating massive personal, public, and planetary health interest. However, other than discussing the history of the NOVA food classification system, a useful tool that has allowed researchers to more accurately separate foods based on processing, most lay media and academic articles are ahistorical. That is, there is a tendency to present the term ultra-processed food(s) as a relatively new entrance into the lexicon, and by default, the idea that health-related pushback on ultra-processed foods is a relatively new phenomenon. This omission overlooks decades of determined advocacy and clinical work, much of it by pioneers within the holistic medicine (now integrative, functional, and lifestyle medicine) movement. Here in this reflection paper, the authors will use historical research and reporting to fill in the historical gap and articulate the saliency of why it matters.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


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