TechUltra-processed food as dangerous as cigarettes, study reveals

Ultra-processed food as dangerous as cigarettes, study reveals

Ultraprocessed food makes up even half of the diet
Ultraprocessed food makes up even half of the diet
Images source: © Pixabay

2:06 PM EDT, July 1, 2024

A major study used data from 10 million people to examine the impact of ultra-processed food on health. This type of food now accounts for more than half of the diet in some developed countries, and its negative impact on health is comparable to that of cigarettes.

Ultra-processed food (UPF) is just as harmful to health as smoking cigarettes, according to research conducted by scientists from the French Sorbonne, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the USA, and the University of Sydney.

Researchers identified 32 health effects associated with UPF. Leading the list is a 50% greater risk of death due to cardiovascular diseases, a 40-66% increased risk of death due to heart diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and sleep problems, and a 48-53% higher risk of anxiety disorders and other mental health issues.

Industrial food as harmful as cigarettes

The research published by The BMJ (previously known as the British Medical Journal) has been referenced by many scientists worldwide. One is Prof. Carlos Monteiro from the University of São Paulo, who specializes in nutrition and public health issues.

According to him, the unequivocally negative impact of UPF on health means that harmful food should be sold in packaging with warnings similar to those used by the tobacco industry. This is especially important because it can be as addictive as smoking or alcohol.

"UPFs are displacing healthier, less processed foods all over the world, and also causing a deterioration in diet quality due to their several harmful attributes. Together, these foods are driving the pandemic of obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes," said Prof. Monteiro during an international congress dedicated to the treatment of obesity.

UPF – Ultra-processed food

UPF refers to food that results from industrial processes. A common practice in the production process is increasing the sugar, fats, or salt content. Low-cost ingredients that do not have direct culinary applications are used to produce food products.

UPF also includes cosmetic additives that enhance the sharpness of flavor or aroma. In practice, ultra-processed food includes snacks, sweets, certain ready meals, and carbonated drinks.

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