Eating Ultra-processed Foods Correlates to Higher Mortality

A study published on Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) based on research conducted in France found that an increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods appears to result in overall higher mortality risk in adults.  According to CNN, adults face a 14% higher risk of early death for each 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed foods consumed.  What counts as an ultra-processed food?  These are defined in the study as “foods that are manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes.”

  • Adults in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. all consume around 60% of their diet as ultra-processed food.
  • Because “ultra-processed” is a huge category of foods lumped together, the researchers lost sensitivity in their results and cannot pinpoint what exactly is causing the increase.
  • The study found that ultra-processed food consumption was associated with younger age, lower income, lower educational level, living alone, higher BMI and lower physical activity level.
  • The research also affirms that eating ultra-processed foods can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and cancer.
  • Ultra-processed foods, according to the study, accounts for more than 14% of the weight of total food consumed and about 29% of total calories.

The study found only a correlation between these foods and higher mortality rates — it does not prove that ultra-processed food consumption causes premature death. But the researchers argued that such foods could shorten a person’s life span by increasing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

Why This Matters:  The precise impact of each of the chemical additives and preservatives in our food is not studied nearly enough.  But we already knew that pre-packaged foods and their chemical preservatives are not good for us – no big surprise here.  This study is significant because it quantifies the risks of consuming so much pre-packaged food — and the risk is significant.  Think twice before taking a bite of or putting these items in your kids’ lunch:  packaged snacks; ice cream; candies; energy bars; processed meats; ready-made meals; and packaged cookies, cakes, and pastries.  This is exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals that we can control by choosing wisely what we eat.  Bottom line — eat healthy, and you will live longer. 

What You Can Do:  The authors recommend that consumers buy only those products “with the least number of ingredients and with ingredients you understand.”

To Go Deeper:  Watch the video below about additives that are common in the U.S. and banned in other countries.

Up Next

Farmworkers Face Outsized Heat Fatalities, States Must Work to Protect Their Health

Farmworkers Face Outsized Heat Fatalities, States Must Work to Protect Their Health

by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer Farmworkers in Florida have to work in “dangerously hot” heat for 116 days of the year, Sam Bloch reported in The Counter. These farmworkers, according to the CDC, are 20 times more likely to die from heat than other US civilians. Despite the high levels of fatalities farmworkers face […]

Continue Reading 425 words
Consumers Beware: Some Hand Sanitizer Brands Are Toxic

Consumers Beware: Some Hand Sanitizer Brands Are Toxic

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now has identified fourteen brands of hand sanitizer products on the market that contain methanol, “a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested,” according to the agency

Why This Matters:  After the President suggested that disinfectants might be a good treatment for COVID-19, many worried about the public improperly using household cleaning products to treat themselves.  But there are also manufacturers who peddle dangerous products and we need to be able to trust the government when it says a product should or should not be used in fighting COVID.

Continue Reading 481 words
As Governors Rollback Reopening, Confusion Remains

As Governors Rollback Reopening, Confusion Remains

As coronavirus cases are once again surging across the country, it’s evident that our leaders do not have total control of this pandemic. This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci’s issued a dire warning that daily new cases could surpass 100,000 new infections per day if the outbreak continues on its current trend.  While some states have […]

Continue Reading 683 words