Most people probably aren’t aware that a blueberry muffin from the supermarket could murder you in your sleep but today there’s evidence. Two major studies from Europe have found a link between the consumption of highly-processed foods and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
According to the study, these so-called “ultra-processed” foods include:
- Packaged baked goods and snacks
- Carbonated sugar drinks
- Sugary cereals
- Ready made meals containing food additives
- Dehydrated vegetable soups
- Reconstituted meat and fish products which contain high levels of added sugar, fat, and/or salt, whilst lacking in vitamins and fibre
The true danger signs are that these foods often account for around 25-60 percent of the daily energy intake in many countries. Whilst previous studies have suggested a link between ultra-processed foods to a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some cancers, hard evidence has been scarce. This new finding published by The BMJ should be further motivation for those who regularly indulge in these types of foods.
According to one of the two studies, “an absolute 10 percent increase in the proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet was associated with significantly higher rates of overall cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease (increase of 12%, 13%, and 11% respectively)”. The same study returned a positive association between unprocessed or minimally processed foods and lower risks of all reported diseases.
The second study showed that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods which accounted for more than 4 servings per day was associated with a 62% increased risk of all cause mortality. This was compared to a lower consumption of less than 2 servings of ultra processed food per day. And what happened when the daily serving of ultra-processed food increased? The mortality rate increased by 18 percent via a ‘dose-response’ effect.
These are all scary figures for those who want to live a decently fulfilling life, but the researchers do highlight that studies are observational through their test subjects. Nonetheless it takes into account the well known lifestyle risk factors and markers of dietary quality. In other words the latest findings support the notion that highly processed foods are detrimental to health.