Yes, Ultra-Processed Foods Are Probably Killing You, Study Says

Woman eats hamburger

Woman eats hamburger

People who consume a large amount of heavily-processed foods are at risk for early death and a greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke, two European studies found.

You probably already know that being overweight and not exercising can lead to chronic disease and an increased mortality risk, but eating ultra-processed foods may up your risk of dying even more.

The researchers say further work is needed to better understand these effects, and a direct (causal) link remains to be established, but they call for policies that promote consumption of fresh or minimally processed foods over highly processed foods.

The participants who reported the highest consumption of ultra-processed foods (fourth quarter) had a higher body mass index, the researchers observed, and were more likely than members of the first quarter to be smokers and have a family history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, prevalent cardiovascular disease, and depression.

The first study took place at the University of Paris and researchers gathered details on the diets and health of more than 105,000 people while the second study was carried out at the University of Navarra in Spain and monitored the health of almost 20,000 people from 1999 to 2014. The last division comprises "ultra-processed" foods, which are flan, chorizo, sausages, potato chips, pizza, cookies, mayonnaise, chocolate, candies, artificially sweetened drinks, whiskey, rum, and gin.

What are ultra-processed Foods?

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However, the labelling of food as ultra-processed could be inconsistent, said Dr Gunter Kuhnle, an expert in nutrition and health at the University of Reading. Kuhnle was not implicated in these studies; however, the said that NOVA classification is not quite "specific nor useful to inform public health" because some of their food classifications seem to be not entirely accurate.

The second study was a population-based cohort study in France that included 105,159 participants (21,912 men, 83,247 women) aged ≥ 18 years (mean age at baseline, 42.7 years). "Between 1990 and 2010 the consumption of ultra-processed foods nearly tripled (from 11% to 32% of daily energy intake), parallel with increases in added sugar content". Two such separate studies were published on May 29 in The BMJ.

Foods were grouped according to degree of processing and rates of disease were measured over a maximum follow-up of 10 years (2009-2018).

The fewer nutritionally empty foods we eat, the more room there is for nutrient-rich ones, Freeman pointed out.

The American Heart Association has more on processed foods.

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