Ultra-processed foods linked to more than 30 health problems, from diabetes to heart disease, research finds

Not tempted by the supermarket aisles filled with cookies, chips and other snack foods or the convenience of pre-packaged meals? But those highly processed foods come at a cost to your health. Consistent evidence shows A diet high in highly processed foods According to a new review of 45 meta-analyses, 32 are associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes.

Research published in the journal BMJ on Wednesday found that high exposure to these foods can be harmful to health in a number of ways, including a higher risk of cancer, heart and lung problems, gastrointestinal problems, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and sleep problems. , mental health disorders and early death.

Ultra-processed foods, which “undergo multiple industrial processes and often contain colors, emulsifiers, flavors and other additives,” a news release states, include products such as:

  • Packaged baked goods and snacks
  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Sugar cereal
  • Prepared noodles
  • Other ready-to-eat or hot foods

“These products are also high in added sugar, fat, and/or salt, but low in vitamins and (fiber),” the release notes.

How much do these foods increase your health risk? It depends. The authors organized their findings based on the strength of evidence for the various issues.

For example, they found “convincing” evidence that a high intake of ultra-processed foods is associated with a 50% increased risk of cardiovascular death, a 48% to 53% increased risk of anxiety and general mental disorders, and a 12% increased risk of heart disease. Greater risk of type 2 diabetes. “Highly suggestive” evidence indicates a 21% increased risk of death from any cause; 40% to 66% increased risk of heart disease-related death, obesity, type 2 diabetes and sleep problems; and a 22% increased risk of depression.

However, evidence of a possible connection with asthma and gastrointestinal health, for example – still showing a link between ultra-processed foods and adverse health outcomes – remains more limited.

Previous research has pointed to negative health effects Addictive quality of processed foods, but this research provides a comprehensive review of the evidence in this area, including findings from dozens of studies published in the past three years with nearly 10 million participants.

“Conducting such a comprehensive review has the potential to increase our understanding of these associations and provide valuable insights to better inform public health policies and strategies,” the authors write.

The findings may also serve as a wake-up call for consumers in the United States and other high-income countries, where ultra-processed foods account for up to 58% of total daily calorie intake, the review states.

“Remarkably, in recent decades, the availability and variety of ultra-processed products has increased significantly and rapidly in countries at various economic development levels,” the authors write.

They urge officials to prioritize public health through steps like front-of-the-pack Food labels and economic policies that make fresh and minimally-processed foods more accessible and affordable.

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