Ready-To-Eat Meats, Sugary Drinks, & More Ultra-Processed Foods Linked To Higher Risk of Death, Study Reveals

Explore the findings and implications for informed dietary choices.

by Mallika Khurana
Ready-To-Eat Meats, Sugary Drinks, & More Ultra-Processed Foods Linked To Higher Risk of Death, Study Reveals

In a world where convenience often trumps consideration for nutritional value, a groundbreaking 30-year study has delved deep into the consequences of our food choices. Picture the ready-to-eat meats, sugary drinks, and a plethora of other ultra-processed delights lining supermarket shelves, promising quick satisfaction but potentially concealing a darker truth. This study’s findings uncover the surprising links between certain ultra-processed foods and the risk of death. B

Ultra-Processed Foods Linked To Higher Risk of Death

US study
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In a 30-year study conducted in the United States and published in The BMJ, researchers found that consuming a higher amount of ultra-processed foods is linked to an increased risk of death. These foods include items like packaged snacks, sugary drinks, and ready-to-eat meals, which are often loaded with additives, sugar, fat, and salt but lack essential nutrients like fibre and vitamins.

As per the Hindustan Times reports, the study, which tracked the health of over 100,000 participants, revealed that certain types of ultra-processed foods, such as ready-to-eat meat products, sugary drinks, dairy desserts, and breakfast items, showed the strongest associations with mortality risk. However, the researchers emphasised that not all ultra-processed foods should be universally avoided. Instead, they suggest limiting the consumption of specific types for long-term health benefits.

The research indicated that a high intake of ultra-processed foods could modestly increase the risk of earlier death. However, this effect varied depending on the specific subgroups of ultra-processed foods consumed. Importantly, the impact on health was found to be secondary to overall dietary quality.

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Here’s What You Need To Know

health risk
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Over the study’s 34-year follow-up period, participants who consumed the most ultra-processed foods had a higher risk of total deaths and deaths from neurodegenerative diseases compared to those who consumed the least. However, there were no significant associations with deaths from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, or respiratory diseases.

The study also revealed that the association between ultra-processed food intake and death varied across different food groups. The ready-to-eat meat products show the strongest and most consistent associations. However, when the overall diet quality was considered, the impact of ultra-processed foods on health outcomes was less pronounced. It highlights the importance of dietary quality in influencing long-term health.

According to Hindustan Times, the study is observational, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Additionally, the classification system for ultra-processed foods may not capture the full complexity, potentially leading to misclassification. Furthermore, the study’s participants were predominantly white health professionals, which may limit the generalisability of the findings.

In conclusion, not all processed foods need to be completely avoided. However, limiting consumption of certain types may contribute to better long-term health outcomes. 

Cover Image Courtesy: Canva