UPF have been linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, other serious health conditions, and death.
A longitudinal study of roughly 22,000 men and women from southern Italy has shown conclusively that ‘junk’ foods are detrimental to one’s health. Researchers sought to “assess the association between ultra-processed food (UPF) and mortality risk in a large sample of the Italian adult population and test which nutritional factors were on the pathway of this relation. Established risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) were analyzed as potential biological mechanisms linking UPF to mortality.”
They found those who consumed the most UPF had the “highest risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality, likely mediated through a diet high in sugar.” Results showed significant UPF consumption specifically led to a “58% increased risk for CVD mortality and 52% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease (IHD) and cerebrovascular causes, independently of known risk factors for CVD, even among individuals who otherwise adhered to the Mediterranean diet.”
UPF includes ice cream, high-sugar sodas and juices, red meat and other nutrition-lacking edible products. Not only does this diet increase the risk of CVD, it is also directly linked to obesity and the risk factors associated with being overweight. Oftentimes, these foods contain preservatives that allow them to have a longer shelf life. They also tend to be inexpensive and easily accessible. Thus, many people reach for UPF versus healthier options.
“The NOVA classification provides 4 main classes of food and beverages, the last of which is represented by the ultra-processed food (UPF) group. This comprises products created mostly or entirely from substances extracted from foods or derived from food constituents with little, if any intact food, which often contain flavors, colors, and other additives that imitate or intensify the sensory qualities of foods or culinary preparations made from foods,” Bonaccio and colleagues wrote, adding, “Such foods are very convenient, tasty, inexpensive, and have a long shelf life. They are highly competitive with foods that are naturally ready to consume and freshly prepared dishes and meals.”
The authors concluded, “A high proportion of UPF in the diet was associated with increased risk of CVD and all-cause mortality, partly through its high dietary content of sugar. Some established biomarkers of CVD risk were likely to be on the pathway of such associations. These findings should serve as an incentive for limiting consumption of UPF, and encouraging natural or minimally processed foods, as several national nutritional policies recommend.” The study was published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The most recent analysis followed previous research by Medscape Medical News which “adults in France who had a 10% higher intake of UPF and beverages, the rate of CVD, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease was 11% to 13% higher over a period of about 5 years.” Similarly, university graduates in Spain who “consumed more than four servings of UPF and beverages a day were 62% more likely to die of any cause over about a decade than those who consumed less than two servings per day,” another study concluded.