According to a recently published report in the BMJ, higher consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular diseases.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the main cause of death worldwide, representing one third of all deaths globally, and dietary factors make the largest contribution to CVD mortality at the population level across Europe.
During the past decades the consumption of ultra-processed foods worldwide has increased substantially, and according to nationwide food surveys assessing intakes, ultra-processed products represent between 25% and 60% of total daily energy intake.
The study required participants to complete a set of five questionnaires related to sociodemographic and lifestyle characteristics such as anthropometry (height, weight), dietary intakes, physical activity (validated seven day International Physical Activity Questionnaire), and health status (for example, personal and family history of diseases, drug treatment).
It found that during a median follow-up of 5.2 years, intake of ultra-processed food was associated with a higher risk of overall cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease risk and and cerebrovascular disease risk.
The findings specifically showed that those who ate the most processed foods were 23% more likely to suffer cardiovascular trouble compared to those with the lowest intakes.
Professor Mark Lawrence, of Deakin University in Australia, told the media: "Policy makers should shift their priorities away from food reformulation - which risks positioning ultra-processed food as a solution to dietary problems - towards a greater emphasis on promoting the availability, affordability, and accessibility of unprocessed or minimally processed foods.”
During the follow-up period, 1409 first incident CVD events occurred, including 106 myocardial infarctions, 485 angioplasties, 74 acute coronary syndromes, 155 strokes, and 674 transient ischaemic events.