If You Eat a Lot of Highly-Processed Foods, Read This

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Each 10 percent increase in the amount of ultra-processed food you eat can raise your risk of an earlier death by about 14 percent, say French researchers whose study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Ultra-processed foods include those that contain additives, preservatives, sweeteners, flavor enhancers, artificial colors - but little or no whole food.

In many areas of the world, consumption of processed convenience foods like pre-packaged snacks and ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat meals has risen significantly, leading to higher rates of chronic health problems like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. Research suggests that ultra-processed foods make up more than 60 percent of the typical adult diet in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The two-year French study involved 44,551 adults over age 45 who provided 24-hour dietary records and health information, including body mass index (BMI), body measurements, and physical activity levels, as well as demographic information. The researchers found that ultra-processed foods made up more than 14 percent of the total amount of food eaten by participants and 29 percent of the total calories. People who ate more than the average amount of highly-processed foods tended to:

  • Be younger
  • Have lower income and educational levels
  • Live alone
  • Have higher BMIs
  • Engage in Less physical activity

During the study, 602 participants died. After adjusting for other factors — smoking, for example — the researchers linked ultra-processed food consumption to increased risk of early death.

Sourced from: JAMA Internal Medicine