If this is part of your diet, you are taking years off your life

Photo: Martin Adams

Junk food consumption has for sure surged since the start of the pandemic (among a collection of many other bad habits).

Modern diet science has effectively mapped out all of the ways that processed food induces early death and the latest comes from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In it, the authors determined that habitually consuming ultra-processed foods (UPF) increases one’s risk of dying prematurely by more than 50%. The mechanisms mostly involve heart disease. In fact, UPF raises one’s risk of dying from heart disease specifically by as much as 58%.

Moreover, regularly consuming processed foods increases one’s risk of dying from all causes by 26%.

Sugar and modifications made to nutrients in order to mass-produce foods appear to be the most destructive manufacturing elements noted by the authors.

“We aimed to assess the association between UPF and mortality risk in a large sample of the Italian adult population and test which nutritional factors were on the pathway of this relation. Established risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) were analyzed as potential biological mechanisms linking UPF to mortality,” the authors wrote in the new paper.

“A high proportion of UPF in the diet was associated with increased risk of CVD and all-cause mortality, partly through its high dietary content of sugar. Some established biomarkers of CVD risk were likely to be on the pathway of such associations. These findings should serve as an incentive for limiting consumption of UPF, and encouraging natural or minimally processed foods, as several national nutritional policies recommend. “

The research was conducted by a team of researchers based out of the University of Insubria, Italy. Their report revealed that strained finances lead populations to purchase cheap foods with little nutritional value.

Their findings were derived from the eating habits of 22,000 participants over the course of eight years.

“To evaluate the nutrition habits of the Moli-sani participants we used the international NOVA classification, which characterizes foods on the basis of how much they undergo extraction, purification or alteration,” the study’s first author, Dr. Marialaura Bonaccio of Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed explained. “Those with the highest level of industrial processing fall into the category of ultra-processed foods. According to our observations, people consuming large amounts of these foods have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.”

A lack of dietary awareness additionally has a role to play. For those in the know, diet regimens are subjected to cyclical coverage that privileges one over the other.

For most, weight loss is the primary goal even though a healthy diet subsumes many different components.

“Efforts aimed to lead the population towards a healthier diet can no longer be addressed only by calorie counting or by vague references to the Mediterranean diet,” Professor Licia Iacoviello from the University of Insubria says in a media release.

“Sure, we obtained good results by those means, but now the battlefront is moving. Young people, in particular, are increasingly exposed to pre-packaged foods, easy to prepare and consume, extremely attractive, and generally cheap. This study, and other international researches going in the same direction, tell us that, in a healthy nutrition habit, fresh or minimally processed foods must be paramount,” Prof. Iacoviello adds.

Spending a few more minutes cooking a lunch instead of warming a container in the microwave, or maybe preparing a sandwich for our children instead of putting a pre-packaged snack in their backpack: these are actions that will reward us over the years.”