Ultra-processed food linked to 32 health effects in study

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  • 5 months ago

A recent study published in the BMJ has found that ultra-processed food (UPF) is directly linked to 32 harmful effects on health, including a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, adverse mental health, and early death. The study, which is the largest review of its kind, highlights the negative impact of UPF consumption on global health.

The findings come at a time when the consumption of UPF, such as cereals, protein bars, fizzy drinks, ready meals, and fast food, is rapidly increasing worldwide. In the UK and US, more than half of the average diet now consists of ultra-processed food, with some individuals consuming as much as 80% UPF.

The study involved experts from leading institutions, including Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the University of Sydney, and Sorbonne University. They concluded that diets high in UPF may be harmful to many aspects of health and called for measures to target and reduce exposure to UPF.

Ultra-processed foods undergo multiple industrial processes and often contain additives such as colors, emulsifiers, and flavors. They are typically high in added sugar, fat, and salt, but low in vitamins and fiber. Previous studies have linked UPF to poor health outcomes, but this study is the first comprehensive review of the evidence in this area.

Despite some limitations in the study, including the inability to prove cause and effect, experts agree that the findings are consistent with a large body of research linking UPF to various health issues. Some experts have called for action to develop and implement public health measures to reduce UPF consumption for improved human health.

In a related editorial, academics from Brazil suggested that ultra-processed foods should be regulated in a similar way to tobacco, with the development of a framework convention on UPF. Another study published in the Lancet Public Health proposed that putting calorie information on menus in restaurants and fast food outlets could prevent thousands of heart disease-related deaths in England over the next two decades.


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