Ultra-processed foods linked to early death: study – The Hill
The story at a glance
- Ultra-processed foods make up more than half of Americans’ daily caloric intake.
- New data shows that consumption of these foods is associated with a significant increase in premature deaths.
- Researchers estimate that eating less of these foods could lead to lower rates of non-communicable diseases and fewer premature deaths.
Eating ultra-processed foods — or those that contain little or no whole food in their ingredients — is linked to tens of thousands of premature deaths in 2019, according to the results of a new study.
The study was conducted in Brazil, but the researchers noted that Brazilians tend to eat much less of these foods than individuals in high-income countries such as United StatesCanada and Australia.
It counts as ultra-processed food more than half Of the total caloric intake of Americans, the association with premature deaths may be even greater in the United States.
Foods are defined as industrial ready-to-eat or heat-up formulations made from ingredients extracted from food or synthesized in laboratories. These may include prepackaged soups and sauces, frozen pizza, hot dogs, sausages, sodas, ice cream, and store-bought baked goods.
The data showed that increased consumption of these foods was linked to more than 10 percent of all preventable premature deaths in the country, representing about 57,000 deaths in 2019.
During the study period, 261,061 adults between the ages of 30 and 69 died from preventable non-communicable diseases. While consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with 10 percent of all preventable premature deaths, diets are associated with 21.8 percent of all preventable deaths from noncommunicable diseases in the country.
Processed foods have grown in popularity in recent years and are replacing traditional foods made from fresh, minimally processed ingredients around the world, the authors explained.
Writing in American Journal of Preventive Medicinethey pointed out that previous studies have detailed the negative health effects sodium, sugar, trans fat and other additives in processed food. Consumption is also linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other conditions.
One study published in September 2022 found a significant association between ultra-processed foods and risk of colon cancer among men. Men who consumed larger amounts of these foods had a 30 percent increased risk of developing cancer.
Another found that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to the environment 184,000 global adult deaths each year.
“To our knowledge, no study to date has assessed the potential impact [ultra-processed foods] about premature deaths” he said principal investigator Eduardo AF Nilson, from the University of Sao Paulo.
The models are based on data from nationally representative dietary surveys, and are stratified by age and sex.
Promoting healthier food choices could help combat the growing trend, while reducing food consumption by 10 to 50 percent could potentially prevent about 5,900 to 29,300 premature deaths in Brazil each year, the models showed.
“Even cutting spending [ultra-processed foods] to levels of just a decade ago would reduce associated premature deaths by 21 percent. Policies that discourage consumption [the foods] they are urgently needed,” Nilson said.
However, not all highly processed foods are necessarily unhealthy, as processed whole grain breads and cereals can also be an important source fibers.
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