Adults whose diet included more ultraprocessed foods and beverages — such as ice cream, soda, and hamburgers — were more likely to develop cardiovascular and heart disease (CVD). They also die sooner than others who had a more wholesome diet.
Ultra processed foods are typically ready-to-eat or to pop into a microwave- frozen meals, canned foods, sugary cereals, reconstituted meats and packaged baked goods. These generally contain high levels of fat, added sugars, salt and various additives.
The study found that, after accounting for factors such as age, baseline body mass index (BMI), smoking status and physical activity. There was a 12 percent increase in the risk of cardiovascular and heart disorder for every 10 percent increase in the amount of ultra processed food consumed.
The researchers found that, compared with participants whose diets contained the least amount of ultra processed foods. The participants whose diets contained the highest amounts had a 62 percent increased risk of premature death from any cause during the study period. This study also accounted for factors such as gender, age, physical activity, baseline BMI and smoking history.
Most likely, a lot of the problems associated with these foods are the result of an increase in calorie intake and weight gain. This is because these foods don’t offer much by way of nutrients, and are calorie-dense. What’s more, the foods contain high amounts of added sugar, salt, unhealthy fat and additives, but are low in fiber. It’s unknown what health effects the additives, in particular, may have in the long term.
Why might ultra-processed foods be bad?
The first trial of ultra-processed foods showed they led people to eat more and put on weight.
Researchers at the US National Institutes of Health monitored every type of food that volunteers ate for a month.
And when given ultra processed foods, they ate 500 calories a day more than when they were given unprocessed meals.
Other suggestions include:
- They are energy dense but lacking in nutrients and fibre.
- While the additives in food have been safety tested, it may be unhealthy to consume lots of additives from different foods
- People eat more because they’re easy to eat
- They push healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables out of diets – who wants a banana when you can have ice cream?
“It’s ultra-processing that’s the problem,” adding that convenient, minimally processed food can fit into a healthy lifestyle. Simple switches — from sugary drinks to water, or sweet treats to fresh fruit — are good starting points.The fewer nutritionally empty foods we eat, the more room there is for nutrient-rich ones.”It behooves us all, to use nature to our advantage — to eat more nutritious foods, and rely less on medication.”