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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.
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.
New research from the FDA has shown that 7 chemicals traditionally found in chemical (vs mineral) sunscreen enter the human bloodstream at levels that exceed safety thresholds. Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the arm of the FDA which conducted the studies explained that just because an ingredient enters […]
Why This Matters: Ironically, it is the crackdown on the illegal trade in endangered species that helped to make wet markets less “exotic” and thus avoid a repeat of the SARS virus of twenty years ago.
We know air pollution is bad for our lungs, but researchers are now finding connections between breathing bad air and disorders such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. The New York Times explains in a fascinating article that the reason for these links and similarly the reason why some people are more resilient in the face of air pollution may be found in our genes and in how humans evolved.
Why This Matters: Air pollution harms billions of people worldwide — from cars to coal-fired power plants to forest fires — not to mention vaping and cigarette smoking.