Cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression… ultra-processed foods are linked to 32 diseases

Cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression... ultra-processed foods are linked to 32 diseases

In a large study of 10 million people, researchers discovered that the consumption of ultra-processed foods was the cause of 32 health problems: cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep problems, depression… So many reasons to limit consumption.

Although we already knew that junk food and other processed products were closely linked to the appearance of certain diseases – such as diabetes or cancer – we were far from imagining that they could be harmful to all parts of the body. .

Processed foods repeatedly singled out

Ultra-processed foods often contain colors, emulsifiers, flavorings and other additives, such as baked goods, candy bars, cold cuts, jam, regular and diet sodas, energy drinks, nuggets, chicken and other fish sticks. These products also tend to be high in added sugars, fat and/or salt, but are low in vitamins and fiber.

They can account for up to 58% of total daily energy intake in some high-income countries and have increased rapidly in many low- and middle-income countries in recent decades.

Many studies have linked highly processed foods to poor health, but until now no comprehensive review has provided a comprehensive assessment of the evidence in this area.

More than 32 adverse health effects identified

In this study, researchers tried to understand how these foods affected the body as a whole. They thus reviewed 45 meta-analyses grouped into 14 review articles. This relatively recent data – collected over the past three years – included nearly 10 million participants.

Researchers rated the evidence as compelling, highly suggestive, suggestive, weak, or nonexistent. They also rated the quality of evidence as high, moderate, low or very low.

Overall, the results show that higher exposure to ultra-processed foods was consistently associated with an increased risk of 32 adverse health outcomes.

  • Compelling evidence showed that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with an approximately 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death, a 48-53% increased risk of anxiety and common mental disorders, and a 12% increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Highly suggestive evidence also indicated that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a 21% higher risk of death from any cause, a 40% to 66% increased risk of related death to heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and sleep problems, and a 22% increased risk of depression.
  • Evidence of associations between exposure to ultra-processed foods and asthma, gastrointestinal health, certain cancers, and cardiometabolic risk factors, such as high blood fats and low levels of ” good” cholesterol, remain limited.

NO to diets, YES to WW!

Concrete actions must be taken

Ultra-processed foods harm health and shorten life, researchers say in a related editorial. So, what can be done to control and reduce their production and consumption, which is increasing all over the world?

Researchers believe that the authorities must react. They call on public health program leaders to urgently develop national guidelines and “best practices“to improve the health of the population.

They suggest in particular the installation of stamped labels “processed foods“on the products concerned or even the removal of advertisements”in or near schools and hospitals”.

Finally, they believe that via tax measures, minimally or unprocessed foods and freshly prepared meals should be “accessible“to as many people as possible and that the cost of ingredients should fall.

According to the authors, “now is the time for UN agencies, with their Member States, to develop and implement a framework convention on ultra-processed foods similar to that on tobacco, and promote examples of best practice“.

Finally, they assert that multidisciplinary investigations “are needed to identify the most effective ways to control and reduce over-treatment and to quantify and track the cost-benefit and other effects of all such policies and actions on human health and well-being, society, culture, employment and the environment“.