A recent study has shown that processed ready-to-eat foods like frozen pizzas, snacks, beans, and canned tuna that seem to save lots of time can be detrimental to health and even steal some years from our lives.
Brazilian scientists found that the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) is linked to early death as it causes chronic and terminal illnesses that are preventable with a healthy diet.
The important study about dietary choices published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that over 10% of premature deaths happen due to UPFs.
The ready-to-eat-or-heat products are made of ingredients extracted from foods or made in labs. Prepackaged foods also include soups, sauces, candies, sodas, and doughnuts. It is important to note that higher-income and more developed countries consume more of the UFPs and could have worse eating habits.
“Previous modelling studies have estimated the health and economic burden of critical ingredients, such as sodium, sugar and trans fats, and specific foods or drinks, such as sugar-sweetened beverages,” said lead investigator Eduardo AF Nilson, ScD, Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health, University of São Paulo, and Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil, in a media release.
He added that no study had previously calculated how these foods could impact premature deaths.
“Knowing the deaths attributable to the consumption of these foods and modelling how changes in dietary patterns can support more effective food policies might prevent disease and premature deaths.”
The authors collected data from nationally representative dietary surveys. They estimated the intakes according to age and gender. Through statistical analyses, researchers found that 13%-21% of all food consumption in Brazil was via UPFs in 2019.
In the same year, 541,260 adults aged between 30 and 69 years old died an early death. Out of this, 261,061 premature deaths were preventable and non-communicable diseases. Researchers believe that nearly 57,000 deaths were attributed to UPFs.
Authors theorised that high-earning countries like the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada could be at higher risk with their high caloric intake.
Researchers added that a reduction in UPF consumption by 10% to 50% could save as many as 5,900 to 29,300 lives.