Main outcome measures Associations between intake of ultra-processed food and overall risk of cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular diseases assessed by multivariable Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for known risk factors.
Researchers called for policies to urgently limit people's intake of such foods which include fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, packaged baked goods and snacks, dehydrated vegetable soups and reconstituted meat and fish products.
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The other study, by researchers in Spain, found that eating more than four servings of ultra-processed food per day was linked with a 62% increase in death from any cause, compared to those who ate two servings or less.
A Spanish study showed higher death rates in those who ate at least four ultra-processed foods a day, while French researchers revealed these foods were associated with higher cardiovascular disease (CVD) rates.
One study, led by the University of Navarra, in Spain, involved nearly 20,000 adults, with an average age of 38, who were asked to complete detailed questionnaires about their daily habits.
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Then come "ultra-processed foods", which have been through more substantial industrial processing and often have long ingredient lists on the packet, including added preservatives, sweeteners or colour enhancers. Adding additional daily servings increased the death risk by 18-percent.
Both studies are observational so can't establish causality, and there's a possibility that some of the observed risks may be due to unmeasured confounding factors. These results remained statistically significant after adjustment for several markers of the nutritional quality of the diet (saturated fatty acids, sodium and sugar intakes, dietary fibre, or a healthy dietary pattern derived by principal component analysis) and after a large range of sensitivity analyses. Meanwhile, public health authorities in several countries have recently started to promote unprocessed or minimally processed foods and to recommend limiting the consumption of ultra-processed foods.
These foods were categorised using the NOVA classification according to degree of processing.
They say future research should explore associations between ultra-processed food and health harms in different populations around the world, and examine how harm occurs (for example by changing the gut microbiome in ways that could disturb energy balance).
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