Sick And Stupid

Ultra-processed food takes our brain, youth and years of life

Woman feeling sick

Woman feeling sick

Part 1

Two studies in The BMJ have found strong associations between consumption of highly processed (“ultra-processed”) foods, higher rates of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular damage, and early death. Previous studies associated ultra-processed foods with higher risks of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer, but evidence for a life-shortening effect was scarce—until now.

There are apples and peaches, and there are apple and peach pies. There is steak and then there is jerky and corned beef hash. Some get sold in restaurants or on store shelves in all their fancy packaging. But the food that will keep you alive is largely unprocessed and as close to the earth as possible.

Read: Hidden Sugars Kill

Ultra-processed foods include packaged and baked goods and snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, ready meals containing additives, dehydrated soups, and reconstituted meat and fish products (think fast food and jerky). These often contain high levels of added sugar, fat, salt, nitrite, but lack vitamins, minerals, phytochemical compounds, and fiber. Yet this non-food food account for 25-60% of daily energy intake in many countries.

Heart, Brain Disease

The first study assessed associations between ultra-processed foods and risk of heart and brain disease. The findings were based on 105,159 French adults (21% men, 79% women) with an average age of 43 years who completed an average of six 24-hour dietary questionnaires to measure usual intake of 3,300 different food items, as part of the NutriNet-Santé study.

Foods were grouped according to degree of processing and rates of disease were measured over a maximum follow-up of 10 years (2009-2018).

Read: Bedroom's Signs

Results showed that an absolute 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet was associated with significantly higher rates of overall cardiovascular, coronary, and cerebrovascular disease (increases of 12%, 13%, and 11%, respectively).

In contrast, the researchers found a significant association between unprocessed or minimally processed foods and lower risks of all reported diseases.

Read Part 2 Food and Mortality

comments powered by Disqus