Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods To Minimize Risk Of Diseases and Premature Death, Warns Researchers

In Education

Recent research confirms that consuming ultra-processed foods, including candies, cakes, chips, and sodas, is linked to 32 adverse health outcomes, such as cancer, mental health issues, and premature death.

Ultra processed foods increase risk of diseases

Ultra-processed foods, such as sugary cereals, drinks, and frozen TV dinners, undergo intense industrial processing and often contain additives and preservatives. They tend to be deficient in essential nutrients like minerals, vitamins, and fiber, but are loaded with added fat, sugar, and salt. In Western countries, they can make up as much as 58 percent of daily energy intake, and their consumption is rising in low to middle income nations as they develop.

Recent studies suggest a correlation between highly processed foods and negative health consequences, yet a comprehensive review of current evidence is lacking. This study conducted an evidence analysis of 45 meta-analyses from 14 articles, encompassing nearly 10 million participants over the past three years.

“Convincing evidence” showed higher ultra-processed food exposure consistently linked to 32 adverse outcomes, including a 50% increased risk of cardiovascular death, 48-53% higher risk of mental disorders, and 12% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The study finds that increased intake of a certain substance is linked to higher risks of death from various causes, heart disease-related death, obesity, and sleep problems. However, evidence regarding asthma, gastrointestinal conditions, and some cancers is less conclusive. The study acknowledges limitations in design but asserts the credibility of its findings through rigorous analytical methods.

Not all processed foods are harmful

From a dietitian’s perspective not all processed foods are harmful. While items like canned tuna and beans fall into this category, the real concern lies with ultra-processed foods, constituting over 50% of the typical American diet. These include soft drinks, chips, chocolate, and fast food items like pizzas and fries, which are linked to chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. To mitigate these risks, the advice is to prioritize hydration, scrutinize labels for added sugar, fat, and sodium, and focus on incorporating more vegetables, fruits, beans, meats, and seafood into one’s diet.

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