Dominance of the Industrial Diet: What is it, Causes and Implications
Dec 15, 2023 By Susan Kelly

“Industrial diet” is a diet influenced by fast foods. The characteristic of this disorder is an unhealthy fixation on processed foods, which are generally produced in mass quantities, packaged in plastic wraps, and filled with chemicals such as preservatives, artificial flavors, and sweeteners. This type of food item is made to be durable and very easy to prepare and store.

This diet is high in processed sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium, which is linked to many health problems. Low cost and widespread accessibility, driven by efficient production and distribution, have made the industrial diet popular, unlike conventional diets emphasizing whole, unprocessed foods.

Overview of the Industrial Diet

Food habits changed in the late 1800s. This change began with canning, refrigeration, and other food preservation methods. These innovations changed our diets. Historically, people ate regional and timely food. However, these technologies made it possible to offer a variety of food year-round. This transition laid the groundwork for modern diets. It changed us from traditional to processed food diets.

After World War II, US and European processed food production and consumption increased. Government policies primarily influenced corn and soy growth. These crops are essential ingredients in many processed foods, marking a triumph of industry in our eating habits. This period saw the dieting industry grow as more people started consuming these readily available, industrially produced foods.

A 2020 JAMA study found that 60% of the average American's diet is ultra-processed. Other advanced nations show similar trends, albeit in different proportions. The rise of the diet industry has changed our diets, raising concerns about their health effects.

The industrial diet grew due to economic factors. Processed foods are cheaper to make and last longer. This makes them appealing to manufacturers and consumers, especially low-income ones. These economic benefits have made processed foods a staple in many households, ensuring the industry's dominance in this sector.

Urbanization and women's workforce participation increased in the 20th century. After these changes, people preferred convenience, which increased the demand for fast, easy meals. This cultural shift has worked well for the diet industry because it promotes processed foods. These lifestyle changes have allowed the diet industry to promote products that fit our increasingly busy schedules.

Technological Advancements and Food Processing

The Industrial Revolution changed food processing methods. Nicolas Appert's 1809 canning method revolutionized food preservation. Pasteurization, introduced by Louis Pasteur in the 1860s, improved this technique. These advances helped preserve food quality and safety for longer, contributing to nutrition.

The 20th century revolutionized food production. Ford and other US food manufacturers quickly adopted assembly line techniques brought to them by the automotive industry. This change amplified and improved food production. The diet industry benefited from this shift because it allowed for the production and distribution more food products.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw refrigeration technology advance. This advancement improved food freshness and allowed perishable goods to be transported long distances. The transformation of the global food supply chain greatly influenced the diet industry, making more food options available globally.

TV dinners and fast food became popular after World War II. This was especially true in the 1950s in the US, when automobile culture and suburban lifestyle grew. This era saw the dieting industry adapt to consumers' changing lifestyles and diets, solidifying its place in daily life.

The FAO has provided valuable data on food processing and preservation technologies. By 2026, the processed food market could be worth $8.64 trillion. The growth of this sector shows how automation has changed our food systems. Technology has created a dizzying array of diet products.

Socio-Economic Influences and Government Policies

The proliferation of the industrial diet is deeply rooted in socio-economic developments and government policies that have shaped food production and consumption patterns globally. This section examines these influences and their impact on the diet of populations. The growth of this sector shows how automation has changed our food systems. Technology has created a dizzying array of diet products.

The US government prioritizes corn and soybeans used in many processed foods. Corn is needed to make famous high fructose corn syrup. US agriculture received twenty billion dollars in subsidies in the year 2019, affecting the production of food and prices and market demand. The sizeable financial support affects the diet industry, which perpetuates processed food dominance and affects consumer diets.

Urbanization in the 20th century, especially in developing nations, changed diets. Urbanites need fast, convenient meals, which increases the demand for processed foods. The United Nations reported in 2018 that urbanization significantly drives the global shift to calorie-rich, industrial diets. This transformation is a critical element of the triumph of the diet industry.

Large food companies spend billions on marketing processed foods, often focusing on younger audiences. The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity highlighted in 2019 that U.S. food companies invested almost $11 billion in advertising.

These promotions push products high in sugar and fat. This aggressive marketing significantly shapes consumer choices, playing a crucial role in the dieting industry growth and the triumph of industry tactics in shaping eating habits.

Nutritional Impact and Health Consequences

A 2018 "British Medical Journal" study found that highly processed foods reduced fiber, vitamin, and mineral intake. These nutrients are essential for good health. However, the high-calorie and low nutritional value that the dieting industry presents creates a problem.

Industrial diets high in processed foods with sugars, fats, salts, and other additives have increased global obesity and chronic diseases. The WHO reported a tripling of international obesity rates between 1975 and 2021 in 2021. This worrying trend is mainly caused by processed food consumption, which is linked to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. Diet companies prioritize convenience and accessibility.

Industrial diets have massive health effects. The 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study linked over 11 million deaths to diet, mainly processed foods. Industrial nutrition has changed diets and increased global health risks.

Processed food consumption has been linked to mental health issues in recent research. A 2019 "Molecular Psychiatry" study found that processed food diets may increase depression risk. Cognitive decline is also becoming more concerning. The dieting industry promotion of these foods may have an unintended impact on mental health.