Study Finds Link Between Ultra-Processed Food and Potentially Fatal Heart Problems

The findings come amid increasing concerns over the health effects of ultra-processed foods, which make up an increasing percentage of diets in the U.S., particularly among teens.

Consuming highly processed food, such as chips, pizza, soda, and French fries, increases a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and death, according to the findings of a new study.

Ultra-processed foods are premade and contain ingredients such as synthetic food additives, preservatives, food colors, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. It includes food and beverages with added sugars, refined grains, and processed meats.

These foods typically have five or more ingredients and include fast foods, ham, sausage, mass-produced bread commonly sold in supermarkets, instant soup, alcohol, soda, and many beverages marketed as “fruit drinks.”

In a new study published last week in the medical journal The Lancet, Chinese researchers report that the more of a person’s calorie intake is made up of food ultra-processed foods, the higher their risk of cardiovascular events and heart disease.

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Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 20 studies focusing on ultra-processed food and its correlation to cardiovascular events. The analysis included data on 1.1 million participants and more than 58,000 cardiovascular events.

The study analyzed cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, various types of strokes, coronary stent blocks, angioplasty to open blocked vessels, heart failure, and death. The data indicates a connection between ultra-processed food intake and an increased risk of suffering a cardiovascular event and coronary heart disease.

According to the findings, when ultra-processed food makes up 10% of a person’s daily diet, the risk of cardiovascular disease side effects increases by 2%. One additional serving of ultra—processed food, like ice cream, potato chips, or premade meals, increased the risk by an additional 2.2%.

When a person’s daily calorie consumption was made up of 10% ultra-processed foods, the risk of cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke increased by 1.6%, the researchers determined.

Ultra-processed Food Health Risks

Ultra-processed foods often contain food additives and chemicals, but also typically contain high levels of saturated fat, sugar, and salt.

A recent study indicated that ultra-processed foods now make up more than two-thirds of the diet of teens in the U.S. This is raising concerns in the health community, as many studies have linked the consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of adverse health side effects.

Previous research has found that eating ultra-processed food increases a person’s risk of suffering from inflammatory bowel disease by 82%. It has also been found raise a person’s risk of suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Other studies linked ultra-processed food consumption to an increased risk of depression severe enough to require regular antidepressant use. More so, eating ultra-processed foods four or more times per day increased the risk of early death by 62%, according to a 2019 study published in The BMJ.

The risks of consuming ultra-processed foods, which are readily available nearly everywhere in the U.S., puts Americans at a much higher risk of suffering cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular events, according to these new findings. The researchers indicate that it is important for Americans to minimize eating ultra-processed food to lower their risk of adverse health events. However, public health policies may be needed to help reduce consumption, they concluded.

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