Ultra-Processed People: Why We Can't Stop Eating Food That Isn't Food (Paperback)

Ultra-Processed People: Why We Can't Stop Eating Food That Isn't Food By Chris van Tulleken Cover Image
Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now


New York Times Bestseller

Longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize

Shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year

“A fearless investigation into how we have become hooked.” —Financial Times

A manifesto to change how you eat and how you think about the human body.

It’s not you, it’s the food.

We have entered a new age of eating. For the first time in human history, most of our calories come from an entirely novel set of substances called Ultra-Processed Food. There’s a long, formal scientific definition, but it can be boiled down to this: if it’s wrapped in plastic and has at least one ingredient that you wouldn’t find in your kitchen, it’s UPF.

These products are specifically engineered to behave as addictive substances, driving excess consumption. They are now linked to the leading cause of early death globally and the number one cause of environmental destruction. Yet almost all our staple foods are ultra-processed. UPF is our food culture and for many people it is the only available and affordable food.

In this book, Chris van Tulleken, father, scientist, doctor, and award-winning BBC broadcaster, marshals the latest evidence to show how governments, scientists, and doctors have allowed transnational food companies to create a pandemic of diet-related disease. The solutions don’t lie in willpower, personal responsibility, or exercise. You’ll find no diet plan in this book—but join Chris as he undertakes a powerful self-experiment that made headlines around the world: under the supervision of colleagues at University College London he spent a month eating a diet of 80 percent UPF, typical for many children and adults in the United States. While his body became the subject of scientific scrutiny, he spoke to the world’s leading experts from academia, agriculture, and—most important—the food industry itself. But more than teaching him about the experience of the food, the diet switched off Chris’s own addiction to UPF.

In a fast-paced and eye-opening narrative he explores the origins, science, and economics of UPF to reveal its catastrophic impact on our bodies and the planet. And he proposes real solutions for doctors, for policy makers, and for all of us who have to eat. A book that won’t only upend the way you shop and eat, Ultra-Processed People will open your eyes to the need for action on a global scale.

About the Author

Chris van Tulleken is an associate professor at University College London and a practicing infectious diseases doctor with a PhD in molecular virology. A BAFTA-winning broadcaster on the BBC across television and radio, he lives with his family in London.

Praise For…

In Ultra-Processed People, a persuasive mix of analysis and commentary, [Chris van Tulleken] shows how [ultra-processed] foods affect our bodies and how their popularity stems in part from shady marketing and slanted science.

— Matthew Rees - Wall Street Journal

[Ultra-Processed People] is highly readable and van Tulleken…writes with the confidence of a doctor who has a reassuring bedside manner.

— Dave Hage - Minneapolis Star Tribune

[Ultra-Processed People] is persuasive and scary.… [A]s van Tulleken rightly insists, there is simply something creepy about eating things whose composition we can’t comprehend.

— Adam Gopnik - The New Yorker

Ultra-Processed People makes the case that corporate interests have given rise to highly addictive ultra-processed foods.… [A] brisk and engaging read, though it might piss you off. That’s kind of the point.

— Ashwin Rodrigues - GQ

An unsettling examination of the food we eat [and] a fascinating, but frankly horrifying, investigation into our industrialised food system.
— Ben Spencer - Sunday Times

If you only read one diet or nutrition book in your life, make it this one. It will not only change the way you eat but the way you think about food. And it does all this without a hint of finger-wagging or body shaming. I came away feeling so much better informed about every aspect of ultra-processed food, from the way it affects the microbes in our gut to why it is so profitable to produce to why it’s so hard to eat only a single bowl of Coco Pops to why any food that is marketed as ‘better for you’ is almost certainly not.
— Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork and The Secret of Cooking

Van Tulleken is at his best when using his own scientific expertise to help readers through otherwise unnavigable science, data and history, explaining with precision what we are actually eating.
— Jacob E. Gersen - New York Times Book Review

Before reading van Tulleken’s work, I felt pretty confident that junk food was bad. That didn’t stop me from eating it, however. Learning about UPF is a different experience—you begin to realize that some of this stuff is barely food at all.
— Helen Lewis - Atlantic

There is much to cheer about calories being cheap and abundant, when for most of human history they were neither. But as Chris van Tulleken’s new book, Ultra-Processed People, explains, that cheapness and abundance come at a cost.

— Economist

Deeply researched and persuasive.
— Sophie McBain - New Statesman

Eye-opening.… Ultra-Processed People is a tremendously important book that will help readers choose less processed, better food.

— Vincent Lam - Toronto Star

For Dr Chris, an infectious diseases specialist at University College London, the problem is not the people but the social and commercial environment they are surrounded by. His new book, Ultra Processed People, looks at the forces promoting the ultra-processed food.

— Natalie Grice, BBC News

In his bestselling book, Ultra-Processed People, Chris van Tulleken…would simply like people to know what they are eating and be equipped to make a conscious choice.

— Rachel Dixon - Guardian

[A] slice of packaged supermarket loaf is more than likely a dietary devil than a time-saving treat. And thanks to Dr Chris van Tulleken, author of the bestselling book Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn’t Food, it’s a term now popping up everywhere.

— Sue Quinn - Telegraph

Additives, preservatives and artificial colorings in food are America's gateway drugs to overconsumption and obesity. Professor Chris van Tulleken, the author of Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn't Food, explores the effects of ultra-processed food in a world where profit is the goal and purposeful addiction is part of the recipe.

— Evan Kleiman, KCRW

Whether it’s a creamy chocolate bar or readily salted crisps, everyone has a go to unhealthy snack. However, ultra-processed foods are not only limited to things you eat occasionally.… Dr. van Tulleken explain[s] the impact this type of [ultra-processed] diet has on your body and just how bad it can be.
— Diana Buntajova - Express

The book is ‘scholarly’.… Yet it’s also witty, pacy and (despite a lot of academic stuff) approachable.
— Adam Leyland - Grocer

[A] scathing takedown.… This impassioned polemic will make readers think twice about what they eat.
— Publishers Weekly

A painfully eye-opening study of food and health.
— Kirkus Reviews

An engrossing, infuriating read! UPF makes most fictional villains look quaint. You’ve got a diabolical product that scientists and capitalists have literally got into our bodies (even mine?!) profoundly affecting our health and even our thoughts. Chris van Tulleken has written an astonishingly well-researched book on a plague that most of us aren’t even thinking about, but one whose architects are most certainly thinking about us, with ill intent. Read it and fight back!
— Rob Delaney, comedian, actor, and author of A Heart That Works

A devastating, witty, and scholarly destruction of the food we eat and why.
— Adam Rutherford, author of Control and co-author of The Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything* (*Abridged)

Packed with ‘I never knew that’ moments, Ultra-Processed People is a wonderfully playful book that changed forever how I think about what I eat and why.

— Hannah Fry, author of Hello World and co-author of The Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything* (*Abridged)

A wonderful and fascinating exposé of ultra-processed food, edible substances with strange sounding ingredients which are manufactured by some of the wealthiest companies on the planet and which, worryingly, form an increasing part of our diet. As Chris van Tullken shows, not only have these foods been formulated to ensure that we eat them constantly and without thought, but they hijack our ability to regulate what we eat, primarily by affecting our brains. And he backs up his claims with a powerful self-experiment, along with lots of rigorous and often shocking research. Reading this book will make you question what you eat and how it was produced.
— Dr. Michael Mosley, BBC presenter and best-selling author of The Fast Diet

Everyone needs to know this stuff.
— Tim Spector, author of Spoon Fed and Food for Life

Incendiary and infuriating, this book is a diet grenade; the bold and brutal truth about how we are fed deadly delights by very greedy evil giants.
— Chris Packham, television presenter, naturalist, and author of Amazing Animal Journeys

The past ten years has seen an inflection point in human history, where more people in the world are now dying of eating too much, than of eating too little. This urgent and captivating read digs deep into one of the huge reasons, the rise and rise of ultra-processed food.
— Giles Yeo, author of Gene Eating and Why Calories Don’t Count

Mindblowing. You’ll never see food—or your body—the same way again.
— Alice Roberts, author of Anatomical Oddities

A fascinating, forensically researched and ultimately terrifying expose of the food we consume. Van Tulleken leaves no stone unturned, shining his spotlight into the dark corners of what masquerades as nutrition these days. Read it; your diet will never be the same again!
— Mariella Frostrup, coauthor of Cracking the Menopause
Product Details
ISBN: 9781324076261
ISBN-10: 1324076267
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: January 7th, 2025
Pages: 416
Language: English