We have posted numerous scientific studies over the past several years linking additive-laden highly processed foods to cancer, heart disease, weight gain, IBD and other serious health outcomes, including the results of a recent scientific study published in February 2019 linking highly/ultra processed foods to early death. In that large-scale cohort study, you may recall, researchers studied over 44 thousand French adults to determine if there was a link between ultra/highly-processed diets and early death. They found that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed food consumption was statistically significantly associated with a 14% higher risk of all-cause mortality. In short, the results of their study indicated that an increase in ultra-processed food consumption may be associated with an overall higher mortality risk.
Now two more large-scale studies have just been published in May 2019, again demonstrating a link between diets containing ultra/highly processed foods and adverse health outcomes:
Study 1: The link between a diet of ultra-processed/highly processed foods and heart disease, stroke
The first large-scale, observational prospective study followed more than 100,000 French adults for five years. The study examined whether there was a link between diets high in ultra-processed/highly processed foods and cardiovascular disease. The scientists found that the more ultra-processed foods people ate, the higher their odds of a first-time heart condition or stroke: Those whowere 23% more likely to suffer cardiovascular trouble compared to those with the lowest intakes. In short, the study demonstrated that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with higher risks of cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular diseases.
Study 2: The link between a diet of ultra-processed/highly processed foods and early death
And the other large, longitudinal study conducted in Spain also links ultra-processed/highly processed foods with serious health conditions and early death. In this study, in which nearly 20,000 Spanish adults were followed for a decade, researchers looked at all possible causes of mortality. Again ultra-processed foods were linked to a shorter life span: A higher consumption of ultra-processed foods (>4 servings daily) was independently associated with a 62% relatively increased hazard for all cause mortality. For each additional serving of ultra-processed food, all cause mortality increased by 18%. In other words, those people with the highest intake of highly processed foods were 62% more likely to die within two decades, compared to those with the lowest intake. In short, the findings demonstrated that consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with an increased hazard for all cause mortality.
And it wasn’t only because those foods were loaded with sugar, salt or fat…Researchers stated there is growing evidence that heavy processing itself plays a role in adversely affecting health. Food additives and compounds produced by industrial processes may help explain the health risks tied to highly refined foods.
What are highly processed/ultra-processed foods, exactly?
The researchers from the February 2019 study conducted in France summarize these foods as being:
“Manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes. Ultra-processed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals.”
In short, ultra-processed foods are “formulated from industrial ingredients and contain little or no intact foods.” (A detailed description can be found here.)
It is important to note that ultra/highly processed foods are not just ‘junk food’ or ‘fast food’. They also include the packaged, mass produced, commercial cereals, crackers, breads, prepared sauces, dressings, condiments, mixes, desserts, and meals on the shelves, bakery sections and frozen food aisles in regular grocery stores.
Avoid or greatly minimize putting highly processed foods into your body. Learn to prepare your own snacks and meals using fresh, whole ingredients (organic where possible). There are many free recipes online and better yet, used cookbooks for as low as $3.00. You can also ask your friends, neighbors and coworkers for recipes. Try them out and tweak them to fit your own taste. You will be surprised how quickly you can go from novice to gourmet chef and also how much better your freshly prepared meals and snacks taste than the highly processed, mass produced commercial versions!
Journal Reference: Rico-Campa, A., et al. Association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all cause mortality: SUN prospective cohort study. BMJ, May 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1949
Journal Reference: Srour, B., et al. Ultra-processed food intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective cohort study (NutriNet-Santé). BMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1451