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Ultra-processed foods could be killing you: scientists

June 5, 2019

Ultra-processed foods, such as chicken nuggets, ice cream and breakfast cereals, have been linked to early death and poor health, scientists say.

Researchers in France and Spain say the amount of such food being eaten has soared in a study published in the British Medical Journal in May.

Their studies are not definite proof of harm but do come hot on the heels of trials suggesting ultra-processed foods lead to overeating, the Mirror reported.

Experts expressed caution but called for further investigation.

The Spanish study, from Navarra University, followed 19,899 people over two decades. It sorted processed foods into four categories ranging from unprocessed to ultra-processed – and found that those falling into the latter group were all linked to early deaths.

Eating five or more servings of ultra-processed foods per day increased the risk of mortality by 62%, the study’s authors claimed, with each additional serving increasing the mortality hazard by 18%. The main cause of death was cancer, with an average age of 58 at death.

“Processed meats, sugar sweetened beverages, dairy products, and French fries were the main foods contributing to the ultra-processed food consumed,” the report said.

However, the ultra-processed food category included a vast array of foods, such as

  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • Potato chips
  • Pizza
  • Meatballs
  • Doughnuts
  • Mayonnaise
  • Margarine
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Milkshakes
  • Soda and sweetened drinks
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Croissants and pastries
  • Processed meat
  • Instant soups
  • Ice cream

As many as 335 deaths occurred among participants during the study, with those recording the highest consumption of ultra-processed foods most at risk of death.

Meanwhile, research published by the University of Paris and the University of Montpellier monitored the dietary habits of 105,159 people over the age of 18 between 2009 and 2018.

The study concluded that there was a clear link between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and cardiovascular disease – which, according to the study’s authors, is the main cause of death worldwide.

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