Consuming Ultra-processed Foods Increases Heart Disease Risk, Study Shows

In Education

A recent study conducted by French researchers has identified a concerning link between the consumption of ultra-processed foods, which are often referred to as junk food, and an elevated risk of heart disease. The study, involving almost 100,000 mostly female participants, found that individuals who consumed foods containing specific additives labeled with “E numbers” had a higher likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The study authors stress the importance of more research while reiterating the existing public health guidance to reduce the intake of ultra-processed foods for improved health.

Emulsifiers found in ready to eat foods

Researchers investigated the link between consuming processed foods with emulsifiers (a type of E number) and cardiovascular disease rates. Emulsifiers which are frequently found in ready to eat meals are meant to enhance texture and shelf life but often compromise healthiness.

The emulsifiers known as E numbers are present in numerous commonly consumed products, making their health impact highly important. The emulsifiers encompass mono and diglycerides fatty acids, celluloses, processed starches, carrageenans, lecithins, gums, phosphates, and pectins. Recent research suggests that these emulsifiers may disrupt gut bacteria, leading to inflammation and potentially raising the risk of cardiovascular problems.

The researcher led by Dr. Bernard Srour conducted a study on 95,442 French adults who took part in the NutriNet-Santé cohort study from 2009 to 2021, with a majority being women around 43 years old. Participants completed online dietary records over two years, ranging from three to 21 records. The study focused on food additives, identified through brand-level matching against three databases and quantified through laboratory tests.

Emulsifiers associated with increased heart disease risk

Additionally the study also verified major cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes, as reported by participants, through expert committee review of medical records. Deaths related to cardiovascular disease were documented, with factors like gender, age, weight, family history, smoking, education, physical activity, and diet quality taken into account.

The study discovered that consuming certain emulsifiers, including total celluloses (E460-E468) and carboxymethylcellulose (E466), is linked to higher risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease. The research also identified increased risks associated with other emulsifiers.

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