Heart attack more likely if you eat ‘ultra processed food’

Sausages and other ‘ultra-processed foods’ could increase the risk of early death by 60 per cent

Ultra-processed foods are distinct and worse for your health than processed foods - common dietary staples such as milk, bacon, simple bread, cheese, tofu and beer.

In the second study, researchers based in Spain looked at possible links between eating ultra-processed foods and the risk of death from any cause, assessing nearly 20,000 university graduates, with an average age of 38.

Ultra-processed foods are readily available for purchase in many countries where they are estimated to account for between a quarter to 60-percent of an individual's daily food consumption.

The public should be encouraged to eat fresh where possible, the researchers said, though more evidence is needed to understand the effect of highly-processed foods.

Such meals often have a higher content of total fat, saturated fat and added sugar and salt along with a lower fibre and vitamin density.

Sweet and savoury packaged snacks, ready meals and instant noodles are among the examples of the food group given by researchers.

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 disease, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease (increase of 12%, 13%, and 11% respectively).

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Their studies are not definite proof of harm but do come hot on the heels of trials suggesting ultra-processed foods lead to overeating.

It found that having more than four daily servings of ultra-processed food was linked to a 62% increased risk of death from any cause, compared with those who ate less than two servings.

The second study, from the University of Navarra in Spain, looked at around 20,000 adults over a decade.

The findings were based on questionnaires completed by over 100,000 French adults. For every 10 deaths involving people who consumed low amounts of ultra-processed food, there were 16 deaths among people who ate at least four ultra-processed foods a day.

On the back of the research, Professor Bes-Rastrollo, from the University of Navarra, said: "Measures like taxation and marketing restrictions on ultra-processed foods to discourage consumption [should be considered]".

"We already recommend people adopt a Mediterranean-style diet which also happens to include plenty of minimally or unprocessed foods such as fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils and wholegrains".

In comparison, the first study found that diets high in unprocessed and minimally processed foods and lower risks of disease.

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