Intake of ultra-processed foods associated with increased risk of death, study reveals

In a recent study, the consumption of ultra-processed foods by older adults was found to increase the risk of mortality. Over a median follow-up of 23 years, individuals who reported consuming more ultra-processed food were approximately 10% more likely to die compared to those who consumed less processed food.

The study, involving more than 500,000 individuals in the United States, revealed associations between ultra-processed food consumption and slight increases in deaths from heart disease and diabetes, as well as overall deaths. However, no correlation was found with cancer deaths. The research also pointed out that highly processed meat and soft drinks were subgroups of ultra-processed food most strongly associated with mortality risk.

The findings of this study, to be presented at NUTRITION 2024, align with the results of other observational and experimental studies, indicating that the consumption of ultra-processed food adversely impacts health and longevity. Nevertheless, there remains a lot unknown about the specific aspects of ultra-processed foods that may pose potential health risks.

The research drew data from more than 540,000 participants who provided information about their eating habits and health in the mid-1990s, when they were between 50 and 71 years of age. Over half of the participants have since died. Researchers utilized the NOVA classification system and other strategies to categorize food items based on their level of processing and also accounted for factors such as smoking, obesity, body mass index, and diet quality when analyzing associations between ultra-processed food consumption and mortality risk. Despite accounting for these factors, the analysis showed that the associations between higher ultra-processed food intake and mortality risk persisted across various diet quality and weight classifications.

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