Harmful effects of Ultra-processed foods on human health

Harmful effects of Ultra-processed foods on human health

Recent research, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, has shown that diets consisting of “ultra-processed” foods are raising the early death risk. This is the category where nearly 50% of our calories come from.

These foods go through multiple industrial processes like extrusion, molding, milling, etc. These foods contain many added ingredients and are extremely manipulated. Examples are chips, candy, soft drinks, chocolate, ice-cream, sweetened breakfast cereals, hotdogs, packaged soups, chicken nuggets, fries and more.

Consumption of ultra-processed foods has chiefly increased during the past several years. And it may drive a rising burden of noncommunicable disease deaths.

Statistical analysis to check the effects of processed food

To check the effects of these ready to eat foods researchers did a statistical analysis. For this, they looked at a population of 44,551 women and men who were aged over 45 years. Their health status and diet were trailed for seven years.

Of the participants 73.1% were females and the average age of all the participants at the start of the research was 57 years. Online web questionnaires were sent to all the participants. There were 24 questions in the questionnaire to be filled in by the participants every 6 months of the follow-up period.

Moreover, the participants had to verify their reports with pictures of the portion sizes they were eating throughout the day. Outcomes showed that for each 10% rise in ultra-processed food consumption, there was a 14% increased risk of dying early due to any reason.

Outcomes of the research

The research team encountered 602 deaths of the participants during the follow-up period. And of these, 219 deaths were because of cancer and 34 were due to the coronary artery or heart disease. Researchers stated that an increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods seems to be associated with higher mortality risk among these participants.

They noted that 29% of the calorie intake came from these ultra-processed foods an 14.1% of the total food consumed was ultra-processed.

The research team also noted that younger individuals were more likely to weigh more than others. These individuals had poorer education and were living alone. They inclined to have low physical activity and a more inactive lifestyle as well.

They explain that the slat and refined sugar content of the processed foods are high. The high sodium present in the foods is related to heart disease and stomach cancer. They added that the refined sugar content is also related to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease. Moreover, the fiber content of these foods is low and that is harmful to health.

The research team writes that the findings from this prospective study propose for the first time that an increased proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet is linked to an increased risk of overall mortality.

They describe that individuals choose these diets because of their cheaper costs, ease of preparation and consumption and lengthier shelf lives. Also, manufacturers are hostilely marketing these foodstuffs and they are presented at supermarkets.

The researchers conclude that further studies are required to approve those outcomes in different populations and to see the several mechanisms by which ultra-processed foods may affect health, counting their nutritional features and their food processing–related characteristics.







The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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