Ultra-processed foods linked to higher heart disease risk

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Scientists from New York University and elsewhere found that eating ultra-processed foods is linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

Ultra-processed foods are food and drink products that have undergone specified types of food processing, usually by transnational and other very large ‘Big food’ corporations.

These foods are designed to be convenient, eaten on the go, hyper-palatable, and appealing to consumers, and, most importantly, the most profitable segment of Big food companies’ portfolios because of these foods’ low-cost ingredients.

Ultra-processed foods go through multiple processes (extrusion, molding, milling, etc.), contain many added ingredients, and are highly manipulated.

Examples are soft drinks, chips, chocolate, candy, ice cream, sweetened breakfast cereals, packaged soups, chicken nuggets, hotdogs, fries, and more.

Ultra-processed foods provide 58% of total energy in the U.S. diet, yet their association with heart disease remains unclear.

In the study, the team examined the links between ultra-processed foods and heart disease incidence and death.

They used data from the prospective Framingham Offspring Study. The data included 3,003 adults free from heart disease with dietary information from 1991 to 2008.

The heart disease incidence and death data were available until 2014 and 2017, respectively.

During the follow-up period, the team found 648 cases of heart disease overall.

On average, people ate/drank 7.5 servings of ultra-processed foods every day before the study.

The researchers found that each additional daily serving of ultra-processed foods was linked to a 5% increase in the risk of heart disease incidence and a 9% increase in the death from heart disease.

These findings showed that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to an increased risk of heart disease incidence and mortality.

The researchers suggest that limiting ultra-processed foods may benefit heart health.

One limitation of the work is that the effects of ultra-processed foods on heart health were mainly examined in white people. Future work in ethnically diverse populations is needed.

The research is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and was conducted by Filippa Juul et al.

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