Ultra-processed foods linked to 30+ adverse health conditions

Consuming more ultra-processed foods has been directly linked to more than 32 adverse health conditions including several cardiometabolic conditions, mental disorders, and mortality outcomes, new research published Feb. 28 in the British Medical Journal found.

Researchers retrospectively analyzed 45 different studies that were conducted between 2009 and June 2023 on the relationship between ultra-processed foods and health outcomes. They assigned titles of either "highly suggestive evidence" or "convincing evidence" for the link of these foods to some health outcomes.

There was highly suggestive evidence of a direct association between consuming ultra-processed foods and 32 conditions including mortality, cancer, mental, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and metabolic health conditions. 

Further analysis also found a strong connection between these foods and a higher mortality rate for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more incidents of anxiety or depression diagnoses. 

"The volume of evidence in this review would suggest that it would do no harm to swap out the Pop-Tart for a piece of whole-grain toast," Helen Truby, PhD, a research fellow at the University of Queensland who not involved in the study but reviewed its findings, told The Washington Post.

Overall, the researchers wrote that it is a call to action "to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of using population based and public health measures to target and reduce dietary exposure to ultra-processed foods for improved human health."

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