Health Uncategorized

Overconsumption of ultra-processed food cause of premature deaths


HQ Team

November 9, 2022: Nutritionists recommend cutting down on highly processed food for a healthy and fit life. A​ recent study found the intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with premature, preventable death.

Researchers found that ultra-processed food consumption was an identifiable cause of death in a significant percentage of deaths in the Brazillian population.

The researchers looked at national food consumption in Brazil from 2017 to 2018. They then looked at the 541,160 people between the ages of 30 and 69 that died in 2019. They found that Brazilians were getting between 13 and 21% of their total energy intake from ultra-processed foods. Ultra-processed food was responsible for 10.5% of all premature deaths in this age demographic.

The researchers also noted that ultra-processed food intake was responsible for 21.8% of all preventable deaths from non-communicable diseases.

Study author Eduardo A.F. Nilson, ScD, a researcher at the Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health, University of São Paulo, and Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil, said, “It is the first study that has actually modelled the overall impact of UPF [ultra-processed food] intake on deaths that we are aware of. The results are significant firstly because the attributable deaths represent a huge burden in terms of premature deaths from all causes (57 thousand deaths represent 21.8% of the premature deaths from preventable non-communicable diseases in Brazil). Additionally, if UPF intake was kept at the levels we had a decade ago, 21% of the attributable deaths could be prevented.”

Cutting down energy intake from ultra-processed foods by 10-50% of current amounts could greatly help reduce these mortality rates, according to the research team.

“Clinically, the results confirm a change in the paradigm of dietary recommendations toward preventing and treating non-communicable diseases and to promoting healthy diets in general,” Dr. Nilson said.

The study has certain limitations as it is difficult to isolate the number of deaths caused by just ultra-processed foods. Furthermore, they cannot account for every factor in the cause of death. National and cultural diet differences, too, play a role.  

Eduardo Nilson noted that they could work to apply the data they collected in other areas and other countries:

“We look forward to estimating the impact of UPF in other countries, modelling the impacts of different policies and interventions (dietary counselling, UPF taxation, front-of-package labelling, regulation of food publicity, etc.), developing models for specific health outcomes (such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity), incorporating health economic analyses to the models and improving the models to forecast the impacts of policy interventions.”

Ultra-processed food

There is a difference between ultra-processed food and processed food. Almost all foods undergo some form of change to increase shelf life and not all processing is bad. Ultra-processing of food means when it is subjected to Many foods go through a certain amount of chemical processing and are high in sugars, refined grains, fats, preservatives, and salt so that they don’t spoil.

Kimberly Gomer, MD, a dietitian and nutrition expert not involved in the study, said to Medical News Today: “Most of these foods have a long list of ingredients found on the ingredient list of the food label,” Gomer said. “These foods include — but are not limited to — frozen meals, cakes, cookies, fast food, packaged foods, and snacks.”

There is ample research that shows how harmful processed foods are as it increases the risk for health problems like high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.

Lifestyle changes and taking time out to prepare wholesome homemade food are some of the recommendations made by health experts to change eating habits.

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