Many people can relate to hastily knotting their neckties, haphazardly doing the makeovers and harshly shoving granola bars down their throats to beat early morning rush hour.
But, while the consumption of these semi-processed and ultra-processed foods have become commonplace in our fast-paced society, only a few get to give thought to the possible health detriments that might result therefrom.
Experts, in a new study conducted by French and Spanish researchers, have linked the consumption of ultra-processed foods like chicken nuggets; ice cream; and breakfast cereals to poor health and early death.
Processed foods are consumables whose chemical composition have been altered during preparation either to increase shelf life or improve the taste (through frying, salting, fermentation, among other methods).
There’s also “ultra-processed foods” which have undergone substantial industrial processing and often have long ingredient lists including preservatives, sweeteners or colour enhancers.
Some examples of ultra-processed foods include processed meat like sausages, cereal bars, instant soups, sugary fizzy drinks, cakes, chocolate, ice cream, mass-produced bread, pies, and pizza.
Following 19,899 people over the space of ten years, researchers from the University of Navarra recorded 335 deaths. For every 10 deaths among those who ate the least ultra-processed food, there were 16 deaths among those eating the most.
Their French counterparts at the University of Paris similarly followed 105,159 people for five years and, assessing participants’ biannually, they found that those eating more ultra-processed food had worse heart health.
Cardiovascular disease rates were put at 277 persons per 100,000 people each year among those eating the most ultra-processed food, compared with 242 per 100,000 among those eating the least.
Ultra-processed foods “may drive a substantial burden of cardiovascular diseases in the next decades,” said Mathilde Touvier of the University of Paris. “The evidence keeps accumulating.”
Previous studies have established a link between ultra-processed foods and early death risk. There have also been findings that these foods lead people to eat more and put on weight.
Experts have also warned that ultra-processed foods are energy dense but lack in nutrients and fibre. This is coupled with the unhealthiness of the numerous additives and preservatives used in their production.
While the push for healthier alternatives like fruits, vegetables, and other Mediterranean-style diet remain persistent, “exercising regularly without smoking has proven beneficial” for a healthier lifestyle.