Malek Batal, Professor

Université de Montréal

Malek Batal is professor of public health nutrition at the Nutrition Department of the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine and a researcher at the Centre for Public Health Research of the Université de Montréal and the CIUSS du-Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (CReSP). He holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Nutrition and Health Inequalities and is the Director of TRANSNUT, the WHO-Collaborating Centre on Nutrition Changes and Development. His research focuses on food security and diet quality as well as the environmental, social, economic and cultural determinants of food choice and their relationship to the health of individuals and the ecosystem in several populations, including First Nations adults, children and youth in Canada, Indigenous Peoples in the Ecuadorian Andes and rural people in Haiti. He has also worked with refugee populations in Canada. Malek Batal was one of the scientists consulted by Health Canada during the development of the new Canada's Food Guide.

What is the rationale for advocating limits on processed food consumption

While Canada and the world deal with an infectious disease pandemic, they also continue to experience another epidemic, that of obesity and other nutrition-related chronic diseases. The spreading of this epidemic is concomitant with the great changes the global food system has witnessed, particularly in the last four decades. Processed industrialized food products now reach all corners of the world contributing to an escalation of the nutrition transition phenomenon and complexifying malnutrition by compounding issues of over-nutrition with the continuing problems of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in certain populations. Canada's Food Guide recommends limiting "highly processed foods" because of the demonstrable lower nutritional quality of these products. We compare in this presentation markers of diet quality with the consumption of Ultra-processed products (UPP) as defined by the NOVA classification. High consumption of UPP is associated with poorer diet quality in our analyses. Using a holistic ecosystemic worldview, the role of highly processed foods in human health needs to be also considered in conjunction with their overall environmental impact from production to consumption and post-consumption waste generation.