New evidence on a potential correlation between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and early death

25 January 2022

The term ‘ultra-processed foods’ refers to products that have undergone a substantial amount of industrial processing and whose nutritional labels generally report a long list of ingredients, including preservatives, sweeteners, or color enhancers.

While there is still not enough scientific evidence to attribute health harms to ultra-processed foods, more and more studies have been highlighting that people with a diet rich in those foods tend to have a shorter life expectancy or be diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases.

It has been shown that ultra-processed foods lead people to eat more and gain weight. The reason has to be found in the composition of these products. They are energy-dense, but poor in nutrients and fibre, and push people to progressively exclude fruits and vegetables from their diets. Food additives are also often present in ultra-processed foods, with numerous studies  showing a correlation between additive consumption and hyperactivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder occurrence in children

Creating healthier food environments for consumers has been one of SAFE’s priorities, notably in children and adolescents who are among the main consumers of ultra-processed foods. Nearly 1 in 4 adolescent is overweight or obese in Europe, with ultra-processed and unhealthy food considered as one of the main factors explaining these rates. Projects such as our TAO project, have allowed us to engage directly with adolescents and equip them with the adequate knowledge for making conscious consumption choices. SAFE has also advocated for the change of the EU legislation about the use of some food additives and asked the industry to reduce the amount of sugar in its products.