Ultra-processed foods: Processing versus formulation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The four-tiered NOVA food classification defines foods based on their degree of processing and ranges from native unprocessed foods to so-called “ultra-processed” foods. Recent publications have suggested that foods classified as ultra-processed are unhealthy and contribute to the obesity epidemic. It is important to distinguish between formulation and processing of a food. In most cases it is the formulation more than the processing that results in foods that are not recommended as part of a healthy diet. Such “ultra-formulated” foods are unhealthy because they are high in added sugar and other caloric sweeteners, refined flours saturated fats and salt to increase palatability. The understanding that processing and formulation are distinct will assist health professionals in identifying the types of foods that are unhealthy and contribute to overconsumption and obesity. It furthermore will help to destigmatize food technology and promote discussions amongst health professionals, food scientists, corporate scientists, government officials and the general public. Novel food processing techniques are urgently needed in times of population growth, climate change and war-induced food shortages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-439
Number of pages5
JournalObesity Science and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ASL has no grants or contracts to report. JU acknowledges partial financial support from the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (hatch project MIN‐18‐141) and the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Obesity Science & Practice published by World Obesity and The Obesity Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • MyPlate
  • NOVA food classification
  • formulation
  • processing
  • ultra-formulated food
  • ultra-processed food

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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