Food fads in the 'food is medicine' space try to use science jargon - nutriceuticals (literal food as medicine), polyphenols, prebiotics, all so they can  promote fad diets around something new - like fermented foods recently.

When being positive - buy our diet book and be healthier - doesn't work, they go for the nocebo: Eliminating something will improve your life. Because "processed" food activists were tripped up the first time they tried to get warning labels on common products (it turns out all food is processed) they quickly pivoted to "ultra-processed" and, like "natural" and "sustainable" made sure to leave it too poorly defined to get debunked.

Then it is easy to "link" ("correlate", "suggest", anything except actually "show") these ultra-processed foods to various diseases. In the hands of wealth-aspiring white people hoping to sell books about how kimchi will help currently-wealthy white people live longer, this is easy. Spurious correlations have a whole website devoted to how ridiculous epidemiologists hiding behind "statistical significance" are to the science community. Give me enough rows and columns of foods and diseases and there is a 100 percent chance I can link some food to some disease with statistical significance.

Journalists never ask but scientists do; if any of this is real, where are the dead bodies? Ultra-processed foods have been around for a hundred years yet we are living longer and better than ever. 

I guarantee it. Every statistician knows not to take my bet. It is why I was a signatory on a paper in Nature asking journals to stop accepting conclusions as legitimate just because the authors showed statistical significance. It is meaningless in science.

The new paper takes data dredging to the next level; they link these ultra-processed foods to basically everything using a badly designed "epidemiology meta-analysis."

If you don't know what that means, they took papers cataloging what people claimed they ate on surveys, and what diseases they had, and then looked at them all together. If people told the truth on surveys, Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election by 80 electoral votes, and California would've led the US in vaccine acceptance instead of being the nexus in vaccine exemptions for 25 years.

There is no way to normalize so many different methodologies and have it make sense. It is statistical garbage. They know just enough R to use it wrong.

Mental health problems - maybe Doritos did it, says our meta-analysis. Diabetes - maybe Wrigley's Chewing Gum did it.  Early death - maybe a giant cupcake did it, unless it is the calorie-filled cupcakes sold at the Whole Foods bakery. Those are not considered "ultra-processed" but they have 40 percent more calories than a cupcake from a box you make at your house, which is "ultra-processed."

Not ultra-processed, according to food activists, yet eat enough of these Whole Foods cupcakes and you are almost certain to get diabetes, heart disease, and an early death. Yet because it is exempt from being deemed ultra-processed, this does not count.

The problem with taking an unidentified classification of food and linking it to all things means you can actually link it to no things. Depression and diabetes? Who comes up with that stuff, the guy who used to run Crossfit?

Pirate attacks aren't in the news much any more so that wasn't included in stuff caused by ultra-processed foods. 

When their is no plausible biological mechanism for how so little can do so much, it is not science it is instead in the weird EXPLORATORY pile with IARC epidemiological claims like that pickles and tea cause cancer.

Outlets like CNN dutifully promoted this bizarre hot take, and screech-y food nannies (read: coastal white women on Twitter) gleefully insisted the lawyers who fund them should sue and 'hit Big Food where it hurts' but few talked about the obvious confounders. Did someone get depressed because they are obese? Did they eat because they are depressed? Would 4,000 calories a day in salads you grow yourself prevent obesity?

Instead, we get a mishmash that must be setting the stage for a new diet plan. Nothing else can explain how something like this - something causes everything - passed anything close to real peer review.

The only safe food left may be unicorn.