- Two recent studies have added evidence on how ultra-processed foods can affect health.
- One found an increased risk of colorectal cancer in men on one-fifth of ultra-processed diets in the United States.
- The other study found that foods loaded with preservatives were linked to early death, particularly from heart disease.
Hundreds of studies have linked processed foods to health risks, including cancer, obesity and premature death.
The latest evidence against ultra-processed foods – a category that includes hot dogs, potato chips and frozen pizzas – shows that eating too many unhealthy snacks increases the risk of colon and rectal cancer in men, as well than premature death from heart disease. both for men and women.
Two separate research teams analyzed the eating habits of adults in the United States and Italy. The US study, published in the British Medical Journal on August 31, specifically looked at the relationship between ultra-processed foods and colorectal cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, eating ultra-processed meats like deli meats and beef jerky has long been linked to bowel cancers. The recent study showed that, for men, eating other ultra-processed foods may contribute to this risk.
The Italian team not only tracked the consumption of processed foods, but also monitored the consumption of “nutrient-poor foods” by more than 22,000 people over five years. Their findings, also published in the BMJ, demonstrate that ultra-processed foods were “prime in defining mortality risk,” lead researcher Marialaura Bonaccio told CNN.
Ultra-processed foods include fruit juices and bread
Processed foods include everything from fruit juices to store-bought bread, which are full of added sugar, salt and preservatives to extend their shelf life. These foods may be considered unhealthy due to their high sugar or trans fat content, but ultra-processed foods have taken it to another level of poor nutrition.
Ultra-processed foods contain more additives and “food substances” than whole natural ingredients, making them more processed than foods, according to a 2019 commentary in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
According to a study published in Nutrients last July, eating lots of ultra-processed foods has not only been linked to a risk of premature death, but also to poorer mental health, including a greater likelihood of developing heart disease. anxiety or depression.
Diet affects lifespan
The Italian study found that people who ate ultra-processed foods, as well as those whose diets were classified as “poor in nutrients”, had a higher risk of premature death and chronic disease. This was especially true for cardiovascular disease, echoing previous studies linking ultra-processed foods to heart disease risk.
In the distribution of processed and non-nutritious foods, there was a massive overlap: more than 80% of foods classified as “nutrient-poor” were also ultra-processed.
This would suggest that there is something added to these foods that affects health outcomes. Scientists have yet to determine whether specific food groups within the ultra-processed category — such as deli meats or soft drinks — are associated with different levels of risk.
The US study found that men who ranked in the top fifth of ultra-processed food consumption had a 29% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to those whose processed food consumption was the highest. weaker. However, the authors noted that men might be more likely to consume processed meats, which in turn might reveal a more specific association.
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