Processed foods’ claim to fame mostly comes from their ease of preparation and affordability (and, perhaps, their engineered, bordering-on-addictive taste). But according to the research in recent years, they’ve become a major health hazard. And those known as “ultraprocessed” foods, which have even less in common with actual food, may be the worst yet for our health and longevity. A new study in JAMA Internal Medicinefinds that people who eat more of these highly processed foods have a significantly greater risk of death from multiple causes over the years.
The team looked at data from almost 45,000 French participants, who were about 57 at the start of the study and tracked for over 7 years on average. They filled out questionnaires about their typical food and drink intakes, along with other information, including physical activity, sociodemographic, lifestyle, weight/height, and other body measurements.
The researchers were most interested in a group of foods designated “ultraprocessed” in the NOVA food classification system. The authors summarize these foods as being “manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes. Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals.” According to the NOVA authors, ultraprocessed foods are “formulated from industrial ingredients and contain little or no intact foods.”
The team correlated a person’s consumption of these ultraprocessed foods with their risk of dying from all causes. Overall, for each 10% increase in the intake of ultraprocessed foods, there was a 14% greater risk of all-cause mortality.
“To our knowledge, this prospective study was the first to investigate the association between ultraprocessed foods consumption and mortality risk in a large population-based French cohort,” the team writes in their paper.