Ultra-Processed Foods linked to 32 damaging Health Issues

A review has found that ultra-processed foods are linked to 32 damaging health issues, including cancer and heart disease.

Ultra-Processed Foods linked to 32 damaging Health Issues f

The world’s largest review has revealed that eating ultra-processed foods may increase the risk of 32 health issues.

Published by The BMJ, the findings revealed that diets high in ultra-processed foods ruin every part of the body.

Researchers are calling for urgent measures to be introduced to reduce consumption.

Over half of the calories an average person in the UK eats and drinks come from ultra-processed foods, which are packed with many additives and ingredients not typically used in home cooking.

These include preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours.

Previous studies and meta-analyses have linked highly processed food to poor health outcomes.

But the latest review is the most comprehensive, drawing on 45 distinct pooled meta-analyses from 14 review articles linking ultra-processed foods with devastating health outcomes.

Some of the worst offenders include:

  • Ice cream
  • Ham
  • Sausages
  • Crisps
  • Mass-produced bread
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Biscuits carbonated drinks
  • Fruit-flavoured yogurts
  • Instant soups
  • Some alcoholic drinks including whisky, gin and rum

The evidence was classified as either convincing, highly suggestive, suggestive, weak or non-existent.

Researchers also assessed the quality of evidence as high, moderate, low or very low.

Overall, the results show that binging on ultra-processed foods was associated with an increased risk of 32 negative health outcomes.

It was associated with around a 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a 48-53% higher risk of anxiety and mental disorders and a 12% greater risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Higher ultra-processed food intake was also linked to a 21% greater risk of death from any cause, a 40-66% increased risk of heart disease-related death, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and sleep problems, and a 22% increased risk of depression.

Evidence for the associations of ultra-processed food exposure with asthma, gastrointestinal health, some cancers and cardiometabolic risk factors, such as high blood fats and low levels of “good” cholesterol remains limited.

It was acknowledged that umbrella reviews can only provide high-level overviews.

Researchers did not rule out the possibility that other unmeasured factors and variations in assessing ultra-processed food intake may have influenced their results.

However, their use of rigorous and prespecified systematic methods to evaluate the credibility and quality of the analyses suggests that the results withstand scrutiny.

It was concluded: “These findings support urgent mechanistic research and public health actions that seek to target and minimise ultra-processed food consumption for improved population health.”

Despite the findings, a 2023 study suggested that avoiding ultra-processed foods could present its own health risks.

The study, led by academics from University College London (UCL), found that people who don’t eat ultra-produced food could be missing out on some healthier options.

Nearly 3,000 food items were looked at and their nutritional content was compared with front-of-pack traffic-light labelling.

It was found that “not all ultra-processed foods had an unhealthy nutrient profile”, with over half having no red front-of-pack traffic lights.

The most common ultra-processed foods with no red flags included sandwiches, high-fibre breakfast cereals, plant-based milk alternatives, milkshakes and white bread.

Researchers said meat-free products, for example, are also healthy according to the traffic-light system, and are green on fat, saturated fat, sugar and amber on salt, though they would be considered ultra-processed foods.

Dhiren is a News & Content Editor who loves all things football. He also has a passion for gaming and watching films. His motto is to "Live life one day at a time".

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