Beyond Bad: Fake Meat And Other ‘Ultra Processed’ Vegan Food Linked To Heart Disease, Early Death

New research suggests that ultra-processed vegan food can increase the risk of heart disease and early death, the NY Post reports, citing a new study published in The Lancet from the University of São Paulo and Imperial College London. Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) include packaged goods, drinks, cereals and ready-to-eat products that contain colors, emulsifiers, flavors and other additives – and are notoriously high in sugar, saturated fat, salt, while often being devoid of vitamins.

The researchers studied the diets of more than 118,000 Brits aged 40-69 years old found that while a plant-based diet promotes overall heart health, that only applies to fresh plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, as well as grains and legumes.

However when the source of plant-based food comes from UPFs, there’s a 12% spike in heart-disease related deaths.

According to the study’s lead author, Fernanda Rauber, both the composition and processing methods for UPFs can result in higher blood pressure and cholesterol.

“Food additives and industrial contaminants present in these foods might cause oxidative stress and inflammation, further aggravating the risks,” she said, adding “Those shifting towards plant-based foods should also think about the degree of processing involved before making their choices.”

Co-author Eszter Vamos said that UPFs have deceptive marketing to portray their plant-based products as healthy.

“While ultra-processed foods are often marketed as healthy foods, this large study suggests that plant-based ultra-processed foods do not seem to have protective health effects and are linked to poor health outcomes,” she said.

The study found that replacing plant-based UPFs with whole foods, known to have important health and environmental benefits, decreased deaths from heart disease by 15% and reduced the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease by 7%.

Researchers claim that this study, published Monday in Lancet Regional Health, is the first to show that plant-based UPFs increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Based on their findings, the authors are urging nutritional guidelines that promote plant-based diets to include a warning to avoid UPFs.

While the study highlights meat alternatives, British dietitian Duane Mellor pointed out that “Many foods that do not contain animal products, which includes biscuits, crisps, confectionery and soft drinks, are technically plant-based but would not be considered essential as part of a healthy diet by the majority of people.”


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