People who consume a large amount of heavily-processed foods are at risk for early death and a greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke, two European studies found.
Eating five or more servings of ultra-processed food per day increased someone’s chance of death by 62 percent, according to the Spanish study from Navarra University, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Wednesday.
“Processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, dairy products, and French fries were the main foods contributing to the ultra-processed food consumed,” the study said.
Included in the ultra-processed foods category were pizza, potato chips, chocolate, alcohol produced by distillation like whiskey and gin, as well ice cream, breakfast cereals, frozen meals, to name a few. Processed foods go through industrial processing and have additives like preservatives, sweeteners, and color enhancers to make them taste better or last longer.
During the study, which followed 19,899 people over a time period of two decades, 335 participants died, with cancer being the most cost common cause of death.
Also published in the BMJ on Wednesday, a French study from the University of Paris and the University of Montpellier, which studied the diets of over 105,100 adults with a median follow-up period of five years. The study found that a 10 percent increase in the amount of ultra-processed food resulted in a 12 percent increase in cardiovascular disease, the main cause of death worldwide, the authors explained.
While the studies did not prove that ultra-processed foods cause health problems, they found strong links between a diet high in processed foods and health issues. Processed foods cause potential health problems by contributing to weight gain and overeating and are low in nutrients and fiber, Maira Bes-Rastrollo, a professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Navarra, told NBC.
Scientists suggest that those wanting to live a healthier life should adopt a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fish, fruit, nuts, seeds, lentils and whole grains.
“This, along with exercising regularly and not smoking, has been shown to be beneficial for lowering risk of heart and circulatory disease,” Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, told the BBC.
Source: New York Post