- Ultra-processed foods undergo exorbitant levels of industrial processing
- This means these foods are not a healthy option
- Researchers have found that regular consumption of ultra-processed foods significantly increases our risk of heart failure
After studying the eating habits and health of 22 247 people, Italian researchers found that individuals with the highest intake of ultra-processed foods (UPF) had a 26% higher chance of dying prematurely.
The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analysed the association between consuming UPF and mortality risk.
“To evaluate the nutrition habits we used the international NOVA classification, which characterises foods on the basis of how much they undergo extraction, purification or alteration,” said author, Marialaura Bonaccio.
The researchers explained that foods that undergo a high level of industrial processing are in the category of ultra-processed foods.
“According to our analyses, the excess of sugar does play a role, but it accounts only for 40% of the increased death risk,” co-author, Augusto Di Castelnuovo, stated.
Quick and easy = bad heart health
UPF include quick and easy foods, like ready-made meals and junk food like potato crisps and fizzy drinks.
Although these options are more convenient and calories are indicated on the packaging, researchers warn that counting calories is not enough, and that pre-packaged foods can be very unhealthy as they undergo many industrial processes.
Besides the increased death risk as a result of consuming UPF, the researchers also found that these foods increase the risk of heart disease.
“According to our observations, people consuming large amounts of these foods have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases,” said Bonaccio.
A little bit of effort goes a long way
According to researchers, implementing just a few simple changes can greatly benefit our health:
“Spending a few more minutes cooking a lunch instead of warming a container in the microwave, or maybe preparing a sandwich for our children instead of putting a pre-packaged snack in their backpack – these are actions that will reward us.