'Ultraprocessed' Foods Tied to Higher Death Risk

It’s another step in our understanding of the link between ultra-processed food and health

It’s another step in our understanding of the link between ultra-processed food and health

A 2016 study from BMJ Open showed that almost 60 percent of calories consumed by Americans result from the consumption of ultraprocessed foods. The study concludes that the deaths were more likely to occur to individuals who ate more ultraprocessed foods.

"Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals", and their consumption "has largely increased during the past several decades", the authors wrote.

"This is a large, carefully conducted prospective study of healthy middle-aged and older French people, in which a statistically significant association between death from any cause and a relatively higher consumption of "ultra-processed foods" has been identified", said Dr Ian Johnson, nutrition researcher and Emeritus Fellow at the Quadram Institute Bioscience.

According to the study, ultraprocessed foods are those that "contain multiple ingredients and are manufactured through a multitude of industrial processes". Researchers at Paris-Sorbonne University tracked the diets and subsequent mortality of almost 45,000 middle-aged French participants.

Previous studies have tied ultraprocessed food consumption to an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure and cancer, but none have examined whether these foods were tied to a risk of early death.

On average, about 30 percent of the participants' daily calories came from foods that were ultraprocessed. During the study period, about 600 participants died.

Other scientists were unsure whether the study proved a link between ultra-processed food and an early death, but agreed it was more evidence that a junk food diet was bad for health. For example, some of the processes used to preserve meat may produce compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been linked with developing cancer, Live Science reported.

Further research is need to confirm the study findings, said the authors, who suggested that additives, packaging (chemicals get into the food during storage) and the processing itself (including high-temperature processing) may be why ultraprocessed foods can harm health, CNN reported.

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