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Ultra-processed foods push death risk up by 14 percent, study says

By Tauren Dyson
Ultra-processed foods push death risk up by 14 percent, study says
Ultra-processed foods are manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes. Photo by mohamed_hassan/Pixabay

Feb. 11 (UPI) -- New research confirms a theory long-held by many: eating junk food raises the risk of an early death.

A person has a 14 percent higher risk of dying an early death with every 10 percent increase in the amount of ultra-processed food they eat, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.


Ultra-processed foods generally include additives used either for technological or cosmetic purposes, researchers write in the study.

"Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals," and their consumption "has largely increased during the past several decades," the authors wrote.

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These foods, the researchers say, could be causing early deaths due to chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer.

In fact, cancer and cardiovascular disease accounted for 253 of the 602 deaths among the 44,551 participants in the seven-year study.

Ultra-processed foods -- which are largely consumed by young people with low levels of income and education -- made up 14 percent of the food weight consumed and about 29 percent of total calories of the participants. Consumption of these foods is linked to a higher body mass index and lower physical activity.

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The study also found that 61 percent of an adult's diet comes from ultra-processed food. Much of the negative health outcomes from this diet come from the additives that seep into the food during its processing.

In the United States, 610,000 people die of heart disease each year, and more than 93 percent of people in the country are considered obese.

"An increase in ultraprocessed foods consumption appears to be associated with an overall higher mortality risk," researchers wrote. "Further prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings and to disentangle the various mechanisms by which ultraprocessed foods may affect health."

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