A pair of recently published studies appear to show a link between the consumption of processed food and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and earlier death. Two separate studies from France and Spain showed a higher mortality rate for those who ate higher amounts of processed foods regularly. The results of both studies have been published in The British Medical Journal.
Processed foods undergo a considerable amount of processing to reach their final state. They are characterized by low vitamin and fiber content, added salt and sugar, and considerable amounts of fat. The list includes things like cookies, chocolate, potato chips, pizza, candy, ice cream, frozen prepared meals, mayonnaise, and deli meats, amongst other products.
In one of the studies, researchers from the University of Paris studied the diets and health of more than 105,000 people aged 18 and over. The study took place over five years, with the participants providing twice-yearly updates on their diets. The study found that a 10 percentage point rise in the consumption of processed foods correlated with a 12 percent rise in risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues.
In the other study, researchers at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain collected data on the dietary habits of more than 20,000 Spanish college graduates between the ages of 20 and 91. That study lasted between 1999 and 2014, with participants submitting lengthy questionnaires about the food they ate every two years. That study concluded that consuming more than four servings of heavily processed foods each per day increased a person’s risk of early death by 62 percent and that each additional serving increased the risk of death by 18 percent.
Consuming four or more servings of processed foods daily is easy for the average American. Many American families rely on these types of foods for affordable and convenient nourishment. While heavily processed foods are less nutritious than less processed ones, they often contain more calories and a higher sugar content, which provides a fast, but fleeting, energy boost. Many experts recommend cutting processed foods out of your diet as much as possible and replacing the high-fat, high-calorie options with nutritious, lower calorie substitutions.