Through recent years, it seems more people finally seem to be noticing the incredible shrinking human jaw – shrinkage that’s a result of the shift from traditional diets to diets reliant on ultra-processed foods. It’s a change most famously documented by the great dental researcher Weston Price, who showed how the introduction of refined grains and sugars led to smaller jaws with crowded, crooked teeth and other dental problems.
Part of the problem is that such diets tend to be softer, requiring less chewing. (This isn’t the only problem with ultra-processed food products, of course, but that’s another subject for another day.) The force of chewing is one of the factors that helps encourage the jawbone to its fullest development.
Of course, it’s not just the jawbone that’s affected by ultra-processed diets. They affect overall skeletal development, too, as shown in a study just published in the journal Bone Research – the first comprehensive study of its kind.
Researchers studied female rats from 3 weeks of age to 9 weeks – a period that corresponds to the human stage of life from weaning to puberty. A control group was fed a normal rat diet, while the test group was fed ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks.
Rats who ate the junky diet showed signs of impaired bone development. The researchers found a good amount of cartilage buildup in the rats’ growth plates – structures that facilitate bone growth. Not only was bone growth impaired; bone strength was reduced, as well.
Further tests showed that this was even the case when the test rats were on modified diets, such as those that mirror the typically unbalanced diet of American kids today – 70% ultra-processed food, with the rest being a “controlled” diet. While there was less cartilage buildup in these cases, the skeletal impairments were similar.
“Our conclusion,” said the study’s lead author,
was that even in reduced amounts, the ultra-processed foods can have a definite negative impact on skeletal growth.
“When Carlos Monteiro, one of the world’s leading experts on nutrition, said that there is no such thing as a healthy ultra-processed food, he was clearly right,” she added.
Even if we reduce fats, carbs, nitrates and other known harmful substances, these foods still possess their damaging attributes. Every part of the body is prone to this damage and certainly those systems that remain in the critical stages of development.
It makes sense. We were designed to eat real food, minimally processed, not products masquerading as food.