Can ultra-processed foods lead to death

Do Highly Processed Foods Increase Mortality Risk?

According to an investigation, there is a clear connection between the amount of ready meals, snacks or desserts consumed and an increased risk of death

Highly processed foods can not only make you fatter, according to a study by French scientists, they can also increase mortality. So if you save time eating and consume ultra-processed products, you could possibly shorten your life. In their study, which appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine, the scientists investigated the research-supported suggestion that higher consumption of highly processed foods is associated with a higher risk of disease. They investigated whether this increases the general risk of mortality.

Such highly processed foods include ready-made meals, chocolate, chips, desserts, sausages and burgers, minced, smoked and otherwise treated meat, cooked vegetables, milk and fruit drinks or even baby preserves, all ready-made foods that are durable and tasty, or those that you can eat only has to warm up, as well as snacks and desserts that are not freshly made yourself. They're energy dense, contain more fat and saturated fats, more salt and sugar, but less fiber.

According to a British study, it is not the preprocessed foods as such that lead to more weight or there is a connection, but rather the processed ingredients should be decisive. That would make sense, because when fresh, untreated food is cooked or prepared at home or in restaurants, the difference, in addition to the quality, is primarily due to the often many additives that are incorporated into highly processed foods to make them durable, attractive and tasty do. In the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, just over 60 percent of the food people eat is already highly processed.

The French scientists write that highly processed foods are industrially produced foods from many ingredients that normally contain additional additives for technical and / or aesthetic reasons: "Highly processed foods are usually consumed in the form of snacks, desserts or ready-to-eat meals" has increased sharply over the last few decades.

For their investigation, the scientists selected from a long-term study started in 2009 over 44,000 people over the age of 45 (73 percent were women) who had completed at least three web-based 24-hour protocols about their diet during the first two years of follow-up. Information was collected on lifestyle, physical activity, weight and height, and socio-demographic characteristics. In 2017 a follow-up was carried out. The proportion of highly processed foods in the total diet was calculated for each participant.

602 participants died during the observation period. Taking other risk factors into account, there was a fairly clear correlation between the risk of premature death and the amount of highly processed foods consumed. Every 10 percent increase in the proportion of highly processed foods increased the risk of mortality by 14 percent.

The consumption of highly processed foods is also associated with a younger age, lower income (less than 1200 euros per month), lower education, higher BMI (over 30), less physical activity and being single. So it comes together a lot. Those who are already fatter are probably less active, those who live alone hardly cook themselves, those who have little money shop cheaply, those who have less education may know less about health issues or are more indifferent to them. Even younger people may not pay as much attention to their healthy diet as old age and death are even further away. On average, highly processed foods account for 14 percent of the weight of the food consumed and 29 percent of the total calories.

Of course, the scientists emphasize that they could only establish a correlation, not a causality, between the people who consumed the highly processed foods and the increased mortality. More studies are needed. However, it is questionable whether more than plausible connections can be determined in such complex processes in which many factors play a role, perhaps also those that were not recorded.

It makes sense, however, if you suspect that the many additives, the packaging, which may release harmful chemicals into the food, or the processing, for example at high temperatures, could increase the health risk. As with so many products, not much is known beforehand about the medium and long-term risks they pose to human health (and the environment). We are, so to speak, guinea pigs in many experiments that are made with us and that we allow, perhaps just for convenience. (Florian Rötzer)

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