Ultra-processed food connected to 32 negative health outcomes

29 February 2024

Ultra-processed food (UPF) is directly linked to 32 harmful effects to health, including a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, adverse mental health and early death, according to the world’s largest review of its kind, as reported by The Guardian.

These UPFs, including items like packaged snacks, sugary cereals, and ready-to-eat meals, are heavily processed and often laden with artificial additives, colors, and flavors. Among the concerning health risks associated with UPFs are heightened probabilities of developing serious conditions such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and mental health disorders. The study’s findings serve as a wake-up call amid the global surge in UPF consumption, particularly prevalent in Western diets where, in countries like the UK and US, UPFs constitute over half of the average daily food intake. Alarmingly, for some demographics, especially those who are younger, economically disadvantaged, or reside in impoverished areas, UPFs can make up as much as 80% of their dietary intake.

Published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ), the review’s conclusions are significant, advocating for urgent public health interventions to mitigate UPF exposure. Researchers stress the critical need for population-based measures aimed at reducing the consumption of these processed foods to improve overall human health outcomes. They emphasise the gravity of the situation, highlighting the compelling evidence linking UPF consumption to a myriad of health issues spanning mortality, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, mental health disorders, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal ailments, and metabolic disorders.