A 30-year-long Harvard Study Reveals Ultra-processed Foods Linked To Early Death

A recent study by Harvard University, spanning over 30 years and tracking 1,14,000 participants, has highlighted the risks associated with consuming ultra-processed foods (UPF).

Higher consumption of most ultra-processed foods is linked to a slightly higher risk of death, with ready-to-eat meat, poultry, and seafood-based products, sugary drinks, dairy-based desserts, and highly processed breakfast foods showing the strongest associations.

Ultra-processed foods are those food items that contain additives and ingredients not commonly found in home kitchens, such as artificial sweeteners, colours, and preservatives. These are foos that are high in saturated fats and lack nutrients and fibre.

The research, published in the BMJ, revealed alarming findings: people who regularly consumed ultra-processed meats faced a 13% higher likelihood of premature death over the study period.

Moreover, those with diets high in sugary and artificially sweetened beverages saw a 9% increase in the risk of early death.

Overall, diets rich in ultra-processed foods were associated with a 4% higher chance of mortality.

During an average 34-year follow-up period, the researchers identified 48,193 deaths, including 13,557 deaths due to cancer, 11,416 deaths due to heart diseases, 3,926 deaths due to respiratory diseases, and 6,343 deaths due to neurodegenerative diseases.

Eating too much ultra-processed food can be bad for your health, especially certain types. Ready-to-eat meats, sugary drinks, desserts, and breakfast foods are linked to a higher risk of death. So, it’s best to limit these kinds of foods in your diet.

The researchers concluded, “The findings provide support for limiting consumption of certain types of ultra-processed food for long term health. Future studies are warranted to improve the classification of ultra-processed foods and confirm our findings in other populations.”

Previous studies have also linked UPFs to a range of health issues, including cancer, mental health problems, type 2 diabetes, and premature death.

In Western countries, UPFs now make up a significant portion of the average person’s diet, comprising as much as half of daily food intake.

Among younger people and those with lower incomes, this proportion can soar to 80%.

To combat these concerning trends, experts suggest focusing on unprocessed and minimally processed foods, which include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and unprocessed animal products like eggs, fish, and meat.

These foods, which make up about 30% of the typical UK diet, provide essential nutrients without the harmful additives found in ultra-processed options.

This study highlights the importance of public health initiatives aimed at reducing reliance on ultra-processed foods for better overall health and longevity.


India Today

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