Anthony Vardet is a researcher at Inrae, who developed the concept of a “degraded and artificial food matrix” to describe ultra-processed foods and showed that these foods don’t just cause health problems. For Science et Avenir, he makes his reasoning clear.
Science and the future: First of all, could you explain what you mean by “food matrix”?
Anthony Fardet: A food matrix is the result of the interaction of all food components, and this is what gives it its three-dimensional structure. For example, if you take a whole almond and grind it well, you will get almond powder. The two products have the same composition, but not the same matrix: Whole almonds have a solid oval matrix, and almond powder has a powdery matrix. So two foods can have the same composition, but different matrices. This difference will have an effect on the metabolic fate of nutrients and even, in some cases, a long-term effect on health.
“Vegetarian milks or vegan steaks are completely synthetic matrix foods”
What is a degraded matrix?
To explain this, let’s use a metaphor: the matrix is the vehicle and the nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, etc.) are the passengers. In a quality matrix, passengers will arrive safely: the body makes the most of the nutrients consumed. On the other hand, if the car is in poor condition, even if it is made up of beautiful paint (paints, scents), it risks breaking down or getting into an accident. Passengers will not reach their destination: nutrients will not be properly assimilated, and their metabolic fate may be liberated. For example, Vitamin E is protective (Because it is an antioxidant) in it’s native matrix by interacting with other ingredients (There are synergies). If you isolate them and connect them with an artificial matrix, their protective effect is modified and is no longer guaranteed – this is a loss of synergy. We talk about the bioavailability of nutrients according to the body’s ability to assimilate them to perform a metabolic function. Very degraded food matrix[…]