Ultra-processed foods like frozen pizzas, snacks linked to premature death

A recent study found that processed ready-to-eat foods such as frozen pizzas, snacks, beans, and canned tuna which seem to save a lot of time may be harmful to health and even steal a few years of our lives.


Brazilian scientists found that the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UFP) is linked to premature death because it causes chronic and terminal diseases that are preventable with a healthy diet.

The major study on dietary choices published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that over 10% of premature deaths are due to UPFs.

Ready-to-eat or heated products are made from ingredients extracted from food or made in a lab. Pre-packaged foods also include soups, sauces, candies, sodas, and donuts. It is important to note that high-income and more developed countries consume more UFPs and may have worse eating habits.

Prior modeling studies have assessed the health and economic burden of critical ingredients, sodium, sugar, and trans fats, as well as individual foods or beverages, such as sugary drinks,” said Principal Investigator Eduardo AF Nilson, ScD. Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health, University of São Paulo, and Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil, in a media release.

He added that no previous studies had calculated how these foods could affect premature deaths.

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“Knowing the deaths caused by eating these foods and modelling how changes in eating habits can support more effective food policies could prevent disease and premature death.”

The authors collected data from nationally representative dietary surveys. They estimated the intakes according to age and gender. Based on statistical analysis, researchers found that 13% to 21% of total food consumption in Brazil was via UPFs in 2019.

During the same year, 541,260 adults aged 30 to 69 died prematurely. Of these, 26,1061 premature deaths were avoidable and non-communicable diseases. Researchers estimate that almost 57,000 deaths have been attributed to URFs.

The authors theorized that high-income countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada may be more at risk of high caloric intake.

The researchers added that a 10-50% reduction in UPF consumption could save up to 5,900-29,300 lives.

UPF use is linked to many diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. It is a major cause of premature and preventable deaths among Brazilian adults,” concluded Mr. Nilson.

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