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HomeFood and DrinkThings Ultra-processed Foods Do to Humans 

Things Ultra-processed Foods Do to Humans 

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A study that has yet to be published suggests that consuming high levels of ultra-processed foods could significantly shorten lifespans by more than 10%. Notably, this study involved over 500,000 individuals tracked over nearly three decades. Lead researcher Erikka Loftfield from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, highlighted that after adjustments, the risk increased to 15% for men and 14% for women. You all be safe out there!

Ultraprocessed foods
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The research featured participants who were surveyed about their consumption of 124 different foods. Those in the top 90th percentile for ultra-processed food intake reported beverages as their primary choices. Diet soft drinks emerged as the leading contributor, followed closely by sugary soft drinks. The study also identified refined grains, such as ultra-processed bread and baked goods, as popular items among the surveyed group.

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Risks of Ultra-processed Foods on Health

Carlos Monteiro, emeritus professor of nutrition and public health at the University of São Paulo, explained the significance of a recent large-scale cohort study. He linked ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption to increased mortality rates. Notably, Monteiro, who coined the term “ultra-processed food” and developed the NOVA food classification system, was not directly involved in the study. However, several members of the NOVA classification system were co-authors.

A Picture of Ultraprocessed Noddles
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The NOVA system classifies foods from minimally processed or unprocessed to ultra-processed, such as deli meats and sausages. In simple terms, ultra-processed foods contain ingredients that are never or rarely used in kitchens. You can also refer to them as foods with several additives whose function is to make the final product palatable or more appealing. Some additives you will mostly find in ultra-processed foods include preservatives to extend shelf life, emulsifiers to prevent ingredients from separating, artificial colorings, anti-foaming agents, bulking agents, and added sugars, salts, and fats to enhance taste and texture.

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Study Links Ultra-processed Food Consumption to Increased Mortality Risks

During the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Chicago, researchers presented preliminary findings from a study. The study analyzed the dietary habits of nearly 541,000 Americans aged 50 to 71 in 1995 as part of the US National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. The study, spanning two to three decades, linked participants’ dietary data to mortality rates. The research showed that individuals who consumed the highest amounts of ultra-processed foods had greater chances of death due to heart disease or diabetes compared to those in the lowest 10% of consumption.

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Proccesed food
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Unlike previous studies, however, no significant increase in cancer-related mortality was observed. Erikka Loftfield, the study’s lead author, noted different risks associated with ultra-processed foods. According to Loftfield, highly processed meats and soft drinks are high-risk subgroups within the category. Likewise, diet drinks, categorized as ultra-processed due to artificial sweeteners and other additives absent in whole foods, were highlighted for their potential health risks. Notably, previous research has linked diet beverages to early cardiovascular conditions like dementia, type 2 diabetes, obesity, stroke, and metabolic syndrome.

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Health Risks of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Processed Meats

The US Dietary Guidelines for Americans already advocate for limiting sugar-sweetened beverages. This is majorly due to their association with premature death and chronic disease development. A study from March 2019 highlighted that women consuming more than two servings daily of sugary beverages, including a standard glass, bottle, or can—experienced a 63% increased risk of premature death.

A Picture of Ultraprocessed
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This is in comparison to those consuming them less than once a month. Similarly, men in the same category faced a 29% higher risk. Finally, avoid the foods mentioned above, as they will do you no good. Processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages, ham, corned beef, jerky, and deli meats are also harmful. Research has consistently linked red and processed meats to various health risks, including bowel and stomach cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and increased mortality from any cause.

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