Risk of Mortality Rises with Ultra-Processed Food Consumption

Risk of Mortality Rises with Ultra-Processed Food Consumption

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal has highlighted the dangers of consuming a diet that is primarily made up of processed foods. The study suggests that such a diet can significantly increase the risk of numerous health issues. These include mental disorders, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity and even premature death.

The primary concern with ultra-processed food is its low nutritional quality. In general, these foods are pre-packaged and contain a variety of additives. These additives are intended to enhance the taste of the food or prolong its shelf life. However, they also result in the food containing high amounts of sugars, unhealthy saturated fats such as palm oil, salt, antioxidants, stabilizers, and preservatives.

It’s important to differentiate between ‘processed’ and ‘ultra-processed’ foods. Processed foods have undergone basic processing techniques such as heating or cooking, but no industrial substances have been added to them. Ultra-processed foods, on the other hand, include items such as sugary drinks, hot dogs, hamburgers, and crisps.

Over the years, numerous studies have established a clear connection between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and health risks. For example, a recent study conducted at the University of Haifa highlighted that individuals who consume a high amount of ultra-processed foods are 1.5 times more likely to suffer from health issues like hypertension, excess fats, and a low level of HDL cholesterol – often referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol.

This study also revealed that the consumption of these types of foods almost doubles the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. This condition is characterized by high blood sugar levels, abdominal obesity, high levels of blood fat, hypertension, and low levels of good cholesterol.

The new study, which was based on several decades of observation, sought to investigate the relationship between the consumption of highly processed foods and various diseases and health issues. It is estimated that specifically processed foods make up approximately 60% of the total daily energy intake in some high-income countries. Moreover, these types of foods are becoming increasingly prevalent in the diets of individuals residing in low- and middle-income countries.

The study was conducted by researchers from Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. They examined 45 reviews of highly processed foods, which collectively included almost 10 million individuals.

The findings of this study were quite alarming. It showed that a higher intake of ultra-processed foods could increase the risk of heart disease-related mortality by 66%, obesity by 55%, sleep disorders by 41%, type 2 diabetes by 40%, and depression by 22%. Additionally, the overall risk of death increased by 21% among individuals who consumed a higher amount of ultra-processed foods.

Dr. Siegel Frishman, the director of the nutrition and diet unit at Billinson Hospital, explains the dangers of ultra-processed foods. He states, “Ultra-processed food includes additives that give it a certain texture and a long shelf life. These foods often contain high amounts of fat, salt, and sugar, which contributes to their poor nutritional value. These additions can result in individuals consuming larger quantities than necessary, and in many cases, it has been observed that people become addicted and lose control over their consumption.”

Dr. Frishman further adds, “Numerous studies have demonstrated a clear link between the consumption of processed foods and many diseases. The greater the amount of processed food consumed, the higher the risk of disease. Therefore, we recommend a diet that primarily includes plant foods, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and low-fat proteins such as fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and chicken. It is also advisable to minimize the consumption of ready-made foods, especially those with a long shelf life.”

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