Eating highly processed foods can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
People who do a lot of & # 39; ultra-processed & # 39; eating food, including some ready-made meals, sugary breakfast cereals and carbonated drinks, appears to be more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Consuming more than four servings per day could increase the risk of an early death by almost two thirds.
Ultra-processed foods are usually & # 39; ready to eat & # 39; sold and cannot be made in a normal kitchen because they are full of industrial substances such as preservatives and sweeteners. They make up half of all food purchased in the UK.
People who do a lot of & # 39; ultra-processed & # 39; eating foods, including some ready-made meals, sugary breakfast cereals and carbonated drinks, are more likely to suffer from heart disease
A French study showed that every 10 percent increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in a person's diet increased their risk of cardiovascular problems, such as a heart attack or stroke, by 12 percent.
Separate Spanish research shows that people who eat more than four daily portions of ultra-processed food were 62 percent more likely to die.
This was the increased risk over the next 10 years on average, compared to eating less than two servings per day.
Experts believe that ultra-processed foods can make people less full and hungry, increasing their risk of obesity, which is related to heart problems and premature death.
Industrial ready meals are often rich in salt and saturated fat, but there are also increasing indications that some chemicals they contain can be harmful to the body and harden blood vessels.
The findings have prompted calls for governments to consider more taxes on processed food to help people cut down.
In a commentary on the studies published in the BMJ, researchers at Deakin University in Australia wrote: & # 39; These findings contribute to growing evidence of a link between ultra-processed food and adverse health outcomes that have important implications for dietary advice and food policy.
& # 39; The nutritional advice is relatively simple – eat less ultra-processed food and more unprocessed or minimally processed food. & # 39;
WHAT ARE FOOD PROCESSED?
A processed food has somehow changed during preparation.
This can be by freezing, canning, baking or drying.
Examples of this are breakfast cereals, pastries, chips, microwave meals, pastries, bread and canned vegetables.
Processed food is not necessarily unhealthy unless sugar, salt or fat is added to make them tastier or to extend their shelf life.
This can cause people to eat more than the recommended amount of sugar, salt and fat per day because they are not aware of the levels in processed food.
People can reduce their intake by reading food labels on processed products to check their fat, salt and sugar levels.
By re-cooking everything, people have more control over their diet.
It is worth noting that some healthy foods need to be processed, such as pressing olives to make oil.
Source: NHS Choices
Ultra-processed foods, which contain few whole foods and show little resemblance to home-cooked meals, have previously been linked to high blood pressure, depression and cancer.
There was no research into cardiovascular disease, which causes one third of deaths worldwide, of which about half in Europe is related to an unhealthy diet.
The French study, led by the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research and the University of Paris, looked at 105,519 adults who completed an average of five questionnaires on their weekday and weekend diets, taking 3,300 separate items of food.
When these people were followed for up to a decade, every 10 percent increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods they ate was linked to a 12 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 11 percent higher risk of blood supply problems to the brain.
Salty snacks, carbonated drinks and sugary foods were the most associated with cardiovascular disease.
The Spanish study, led by the University of Navarra, looked at nearly 20,000 people whose ultra-processed foods of choice mainly consist of meats, sugary drinks and dairy products.
For each additional portion of these foods, they admitted that they had eaten in questionnaires, which would increase the mortality risk of people by 18 percent, with cancer the leading cause of death.
In addition to their lack of nutrients, processed foods and their packaging contain certain chemicals that are thought to have an effect on health.
But some experts say it is difficult to avoid processed foods and not all entail the same risk.
However, the Spanish study concludes that & # 39; targeting products, taxing and marketing restrictions on ultra-processed products, and promoting fresh or minimally processed food, should be considered as part of an important health policy to improve global public health & # 39 ;.
Dr. Gunter Kuhnle, associate professor of nutrition and health at the University of Reading, who was not involved in both studies, said: & # 39; These studies are important because they show that there is a connection between the consumption of & # 39; ultra-processed & # 39; food and health that justifies further research. & # 39;
Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: & It is important to remember that observational studies like this can only show an association. They can't tell us what's behind this.
& # 39; The classification of ultra-processed foods used by the researchers is very broad, so there may be a number of reasons why these foods are associated with an increased risk to our health, such as nutritional value, food additives or other factors in a person's life. & # 39;
WHAT WOULD A BALANCED DIET COULD LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Basic meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grain
• 30 grams of fiber per day: this is the same as eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-grain breakfast cereal cookies, 2 thick slices of whole-grain bread and large baked potato with the skin on it
• Some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) opt for options for lower fat and lower sugars
• Eat beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish each week, one of which must be greasy)
• Choose unsaturated oils and lubricating oils and consume in small quantities
• Drink 6-8 cups / glasses of water per day
• Adults must have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
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