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Think Twice Before You Snack: Deadly Risks of Processed Foods

Daniel Kim Views  

The impact of the overall quality of one’s diet on mortality is higher than the consumption of ultra-processed foods.

A study that suggests the overall quality of one’s diet has a greater impact on mortality than the consumption of ultra-processed foods has been published in the BMJ.

Ultra-processed foods have been altered by adding color, flavor, emulsifiers, and other additives during manufacturing, resulting in a high sugar, salt, and saturated fat content and low fiber, vitamins, and nutritional value. These include cakes, sugary cereals, pastries, bacon, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, frozen pizza, and instant foods.

Ultra-processed foods make up more than 73% of the food supply in the United States and account for 57% of the daily energy intake of American adults, and even higher at 67% for younger age groups.

While there have been ongoing studies suggesting that the consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer and that certain ultra-processed foods increase the risk of death, recently, a research team argued that the overall quality of one’s diet is more critical than the ingestion of ultra-processed foods.

The research team tracked the health of over 74,000 female nurses and over 39,000 male health workers for 30 years, surveying their lifestyle and health habits every two years and conducting a dietary survey every four years. It assigned higher scores to those with higher-quality diets.

According to the study, participants who consumed an average of seven servings of ultra-processed foods per day had a 4% higher risk of death than those who consumed an average of three servings per day. Mainly, those who consumed the most ultra-processed foods had an 8% higher risk of death due to neurodegenerative disorders.

Furthermore, among ultra-processed foods, dairy desserts showed the strongest association with death due to neurodegenerative causes, and instant foods made from meat, poultry, and seafood, as well as beverages with added sugar and artificial sweeteners, were the main ultra-processed foods that increased the mortality rate.

The experts explained that a diet high in ultra-processed foods can trigger neuroinflammation and disrupt the blood-brain barrier, leading to neurodegeneration. They further demonstrated the consumption of ultra-processed foods has a correlation with demyelination in the central nervous system, a precursor symptom of multiple sclerosis, as well as cognitive decline and dementia.

On the other hand, when considering the comprehensive quality of one’s diet, the impact of ultra-processed food consumption on mortality was found to be insignificant. In other words, while limiting some ultra-processed foods for long-term health is beneficial, maintaining a high-quality diet overall is the most decisive.

The research team emphasized the noteworthiness of not consuming large amounts of the main ultra-processed foods that increase the risk of death rather than limiting all ultra-processed food consumption.

They advised that while it is unrealistic always to eat a 100% healthy diet and completely avoid ultra-processed foods, it is better to consume less. However, occasional consumption of ultra-processed foods is acceptable.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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