Ultra-processed food shortens life

Deccan Chronicle.  | Durga Prasad Sunku

Lifestyle, Health and Wellbeing

Culprits include saturated fat, added sugar.

Ultra-processed foods include mass-produced, ready-to-eat foods such as packaged snacks, sugary drinks, breads, candies, ready-made meals and processed meats.(Representational Image)

Hyderabad: Consumption of ultra-processed food might lead to an early death. Preservatives and chemicals found in these foods have adverse effects on the human body, which can be fatal in some cases.

Ultra-processed foods include mass-produced, ready-to-eat foods such as packaged snacks, sugary drinks, breads, candies, ready-made meals and processed meats. These may contain chemicals such as acrylamide, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have carcinogenic properties.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by the American Medical Asso-ciation, has found that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to increased higher mortality risk. This is the first major study that links the two.

Researchers monitored the diet of thousands of people between 2009 and 2017. Over seven years of follow-up, there were 602 deaths, of which 219 were from cancer and 34 from cardiovascular disease. The risk for all-cause death increased by 14 per cent for every 10 per cent increase in the amount of dietary ultra processed foods.

Dr Aftab Ahmed, general physician at Apollo Hospitals, said, “Foods which are modified for preservation or ready to use/eat are called ultra-processed foods. They include snacks like crisps, cookies, pies, sausage rolls, preserved meat like bacon, salami, ham, tinned fruits and vegetables, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.”

He said that the culprits in these foods were the high amounts of saturated fat, added sugar and salt, with low fibre and vitamin density. They also contained carcinogen producing chemicals.  

“The packaging material of ultra processed food may become carcinogenic when it comes in contact with food. Food additives like sodium nitrate and titanium dioxide are believed to have a cancer causing effect in animal model studies," Dr Ahmed added.

Dr Zeenath Fathima, a consultant nutritionist in the city, said, ultra-processed food contains preservatives, sugar, salt, artificial colours and sweeteners, and fats.

“Pizzas, fizzy drinks and bakery stuff do not contain beneficial nutrients, thus leading to adverse effect on an individual’s health such as obesity, cancer and various types of renal diseases,” Dr Fathima said.

Chemicals used in the manufacture of ultra-processed food include sodium nitrate, Olestra, caffeine, butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene, and mono-sodium glutamate.

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