Published: Thu, February 14, 2019
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Eating ready meals and chocolate snacks linked to deadly diseases

Eating ready meals and chocolate snacks linked to deadly diseases

A new study has laid bare the dangers of consuming "ultra-processed" food - a category that contains white bread, ready meals, sausages, sugary cereals, fizzy drinks, and crisps.

While we all love nibbling away at our pizzas, chips or French fries, a new study, conducted in France, now finds that we face a 14% higher risk of early death with each 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed food we eat. But the researchers hypothesized that these foods could contribute to a shorter life span in a number of ways - for example, by increasing a person's risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

The link was clear even after taking into account the greater likelihood of deprivation, smoking, obesity and lower educational background among those who ate ultra-processed food, the researchers say. Yet, these foods - which are high in salt, sugar and other additives - are an increasingly large part of people's diets.

Further research is need to confirm the study findings, said the authors, who suggested that additives, packaging (chemicals get into the food during storage) and the processing itself (including high-temperature processing) may be why ultraprocessed foods can harm health, CNN reported. On average the highly processed foods made up 14 per cent of their diets by weight.

There are many kinds of ultraprocessed foods and the study could not pinpoint exactly what might make them a threat to health, according to Nurgul Fitzgerald, associate professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University. Consumption of these foods is linked to a higher body mass index and lower physical activity.

"Such foods are attractive because they tend to be cheaper, are highly palatable due to high sugar, salt, and saturated fat content, are widely available, highly marketed, ready to eat, and their use-by dates are lengthy, so they last longer", Nita Forouhi of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge told The Guardian.

Other scientists said it was hard to draw firm conclusions from the study, partly because the "ultra-processed" foods category was so large, ranging from packet soups to chocolate bars. According to the study, in the United alone 61% of an adult's total diet comes from ultra-processed foods. For every 10 per cent increase, their chances of dying in the period of investigation...

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