Not all foods are the same. Many products are heavily processed by adding additives, oil, sugar, and salt to maximize their shelf life, such as sodas, energy beverages, energy bars, cookies, chips, instant noodles, chicken nuggets, and ready-to-heat pizza.
Many studies have been done to show a link between consuming processed products and reduced diet quality, as well as higher risks for some health issues, such as heart disease, obesity, or high blood pressure.
The results from a recent study have shown that consuming ultra-processed foods was linked to premature death that can be prevented. The findings could be found in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
In this project, scientists from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, examined the mortality rate in the Brazilian population and the link to the consumption of processed products.
First, they studied food consumption in the country between 2017 and 2018. The group of authors then inspected this data in relation to information about mortality and demographics from 2019.
Overall, Brazilians got from 13 to 21 percent of their total energy intake from processed foods. Among them, more than 540,000 people between 30 and 69 years old died in 2019.
The results suggest that intake of processed products led to 10.5 percent of premature deaths in these people. In addition, scientists noticed that processed products were linked to almost 22 percent of preventable deaths caused by non-communicable diseases.
As a result, scientists believed that reducing the consumption of processed products by 10 to 50 percent would have a significant effect on mortality rates.
While the study provides evidence about the risks of processed foods, it may have some drawbacks that should be resolved.
First, it was not possible to calculate the exact number of deaths linked to processed products. The analysis also had several problems, such as the lack of certain factors and confounding risks.
In addition, the authors acknowledge that there may be a risk of reverse causation. Another problem was that data was collected only in Brazil, meaning that the results would be not the same in other nations.
It is still not clear how changes to recommendations and food policies would impact the public health.
Meanwhile, you would consult your nutrition specialists or doctors to reduce the intake of processed foods in the diet. Start by avoiding junk foods, fried foods, cookies, chips, and sodas. Instead, try whole foods.