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Study confirms health risks associated with ultra-processed foods, snacks


 A sample of ultra-processed foods.

Studies have found a direct correlation between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and several health problems, such as cancer, death and different disorders relating to the body and mind.

A team of researchers from Australia, the US, France and Ireland conducted a thorough study that produced strong evidence linking an increased intake of ultra-processed foods to a significantly; higher risk of anxiety, common mental health disorders, type 2 diabetes and mortality from cardiovascular disease.

The research defines ultra-processed foods as foods produced through industrial processes that usually include artificial ingredients, preservatives and additives.

A 21 per cent higher risk of all-cause mortality, a 40–66 per cent increased risk of mortality related to heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, sleep issues and a 22 per cent increased risk of depression are also associated with heavy consumption of ultra-processed foods, according to the research. 

In particular, it was discovered that eating a lot of ultra-processed food increased the risk of obesity, Crohn's disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, depression, wheezing and unfavourable sleep-related issues.

The study also stresses the link between eating a lot of ultra-processed food and developing cancer, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, pancreatic cancer and tumours of the central nervous system.

Many processing methods, including extrusion, hydrogenation and high-temperature cooking, are applied to these foods. Examples include packaged baked goods, fast food, sugar-filled drinks, snacks and prepared meals.

Usually high in unhealthy fats, sugars and salt, these foods are low in fibre and essential nutrients.

Ultra-processed foods undergo many industrial processes, frequently including flavours, colours and other additives. Additionally, these products frequently have high added sugar, fat and salt content but low vitamin and fibre content.

“Therefore, public policies and actions are essential,” the researchers say.

According to the research, these include financial policies that make ultra-processed foods more expensive and less readily available than unprocessed or minimally processed foods, institutional food procurement that complies with these regulations, labels on the front of products that identify ultra-processed foods and bans on sales and advertising in or close to hospitals and schools.

“National dietary guidelines recommend a variety of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and freshly prepared meals and the avoidance of ultra-processed foods,” say the researchers.

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