Ultra-processed foods linked to higher death risk, study finds

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Scientists from the University of Bern and elsewhere found that intake of ultra-processed foods is linked to higher death risk.

Ultra-processed foods most likely have many added ingredients such as sugar, salt, fat, and artificial colors or preservatives.

Ultra-processed foods are made mostly from substances extracted from foods, such as fats, starches, added sugars, and hydrogenated fats.

They may also contain additives like artificial colors and flavors or stabilizers. Examples of these foods are frozen meals, soft drinks, hot dogs and cold cuts, fast food, packaged cookies, cakes, and salty snacks.

Intake of ultra-processed foods has increased worldwide during the last decades because they are cheap and ready-to-consume products.

However, many studies have found their negative impacts on health.

In the current study, researchers aimed to conduct a systematic review evaluating the association of ultra-processed food consumption with death risk.

They used data from 5 big databases. Among 6,951 studies, 40 studies comprising 5,750,133 people were included. Publication dates ranged from 1984 to 2021.

The researchers found that compared with low intake, the highest intake of ultra-processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and processed meat/red meat was strongly linked to an increased risk of death.

However, breakfast cereals were linked to a lower death risk.

The team concludes that a high intake of ultra-processed food, sugar-sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, processed meat, and processed red meat might increase the all-cause death risk, while breakfast cereals might decrease it.

They suggest that future studies need to address the lack of standardized methods in ultra-processed food categorization.

The research was published in The American Journal of Epidemiology and conducted by Petek Eylul Taneri et al.

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