Your Favourite Junk Food May Have 32 Different Health Risks: Study Finds

Direct associations were found between exposure to ultra-processed foods and 32 (71%) health parameters, state the researchers.

Your Favourite Junk Food May Have 32 Different Health Risks: Study Finds

Junk foods are loaded with excess fats, salt and sugar

There's something very comforting about munching a packet of chips and indulging in a tubful of ice cream. But unfortunately, these comfort foods directly affect our love handles and our daily calorie count. A new study weighs in that these quick fixes come for more than just your waistline. You read that right. Research, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), states that exposure to ultra-processed foods is linked to 32 different health risks. The findings state, "Direct associations were found between exposure to ultra-processed foods and 32 (71%) health parameters spanning mortality, and mental, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and metabolic health outcomes."

What Are Ultra-Processed Foods? Why Are They Considered Unhealthy?

To put it simply, ultra-processed foods are packed meals that are easily available at almost every convenience store. According to the British Heart Foundation, they tend to include many additives and ingredients that are not typically used in home cooking, "such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, artificial colours, and flavours". These foods tend to have longer shelf life, but several health risks due to the heavy use of additives. Examples of ultra-processed foods include ice cream, sausages, chips, soda, carbonated drinks, breakfast cereals, instant foods, and certain alcoholic drinks.

The British Heart Foundation further states that the high levels of sugar, salt, and fat in these ultra-processed foods often tend to change the composition of your gut microbes, further affecting the overall functioning of the body.

Also Read: Too Much Of Ultra-Processed Food May Take Toll On Your Heart: Study

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Link Between Ultra-Processed Foods And 32 Different Health Risks: The Study

In this study, the researchers carried out an umbrella review of 14 different articles, associating ultra-processed foods with adverse health outcomes, which were published in the last three years.

The findings show that higher exposure to ultra-processed foods was consistently associated with an increased risk of 32 adverse health outcomes.

6 Major Findings Of The Links Between Ultra-Processed Foods And Health Risks:

Higher consumption of ultra-processed food is associated with-

1. around a 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death;

2. a 48-53% higher risk of anxiety and common mental disorders;

3. a 12% greater risk of type 2 diabetes;

4. a 21% greater risk of death from any cause;

5. a 40-66% increased risk of heart disease-related death, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and sleep problems;

6. a 22% increased risk of depression.

There was also certain evidence for "the associations of ultra-processed food exposure with asthma, gastrointestinal health, and cardiometabolic risk factors, such as high blood fats and low levels of 'good' cholesterol", reads the study.

Bottom Line:

The researchers conclude that reformulation of the ingredients in packaged food cannot be a solution for this global issue. Instead, holistic measures including front-of-pack labels, restricting advertising and prohibiting sales in or near schools and hospitals, etc. are needed to lower health risks.