Study shows consumption of highly processed foods increases risk of death, ET HealthWorld

Study shows consumption of highly processed foods increases risk of death, ET HealthWorld


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CHICAGO: Older people who reported eating high amounts of ultra-processed foods were about 10 percent more likely to die after an average follow-up of 23 years than older people who ate less processed foods, according to a recent study.

These results are from a large study that followed more than 500,000 people in the United States for nearly thirty years. The findings showed that consuming more ultra-processed foods was associated with a slight increase in deaths from heart disease and diabetes, as well as deaths from all causes. However, no association was seen in cancer deaths.

“The results of our study support a large body of literature, including both observational and experimental studies, indicating that consumption of ultra-processed foods adversely affects health and longevity,” said Erica Loftfield, PhD, Stadtman Investigator at the National Cancer Institute. “However, there is still much we do not know, including which aspects of ultra-processed foods pose potential health risks.”

Loftfield will present his findings at Nutrition 2024, the American Society for Nutrition's flagship annual meeting, to be held in Chicago from June 29 to July 2.

The research used data from more than 540,000 people who reported their eating habits and health in the mid-1990s, when they were between 50 and 71 years old. More than half of the participants have died since then. The researchers analyzed overall rates of death among people who were in the 90th percentile for consumption of ultra-processed foods at baseline, versus those in the 10th percentile, and also looked at associations with specific foods and specific diseases.

“We found that highly processed meats and soft drinks are some of the subgroups of ultra-processed foods most associated with mortality risk, and eating a diet low in these foods is already recommended for disease prevention and health promotion,” Loftfield said. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages and deli meats.

For this study, the researchers used several strategies to classify the level of processing of different foods. This included dividing food frequency questionnaire data into specific food and ingredient types, as well as incorporating expert consensus to categorize dietary components according to a rubric known as the NOVA classification system.

The researchers also took into account other factors such as smoking and obesity that can increase a person's risk of death. They found that people who ate more ultra-processed foods also had a higher body mass index and lower Healthy Eating Index scores (a measure of diet quality based on how closely a person's diet matches the Dietary Guidelines for Americans). However, the analysis showed that the relationship between ultra-processed food consumption and increased mortality was not explained by these variables, as the association between high ultra-processed food intake and mortality risk persisted among people with better or worse diet quality, as well as those with normal weight or obesity. (ANI)

  • Published on July 1, 2024 at 04:18 PM IST

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