Ultraprocessed food (commonly called “junk” food) consumption has been implicated as a risk factor for a number of diseases as well as increased mortality rate in a number of studies. Researchers in Italy conducted a longitudinal analysis to determine which nutritional factors in ultraprocessed foods might be contributing to poor health outcomes. The study involved 22 475 men and women with a mean age of 55 (+/-12 years), followed over an eight-year period. Participants’ ultraprocessed food consumption was assessed via a semiquantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), and the UPF consumption was classified into quartiles based on the ratio of UPF to total food consumption. Overall, the median UPF consumption was 10%, with processed meat, pizza, and baked goods being the highest contributing foods. There was a linear dose-response relation between UPF consumption and overall mortality as well as cardiovascular disease mortality. When the results were separated into quartiles and compared, those in the highest group (UPF >14.6% of total food consumption) were at higher risk of a number of health problems compared to those in the lowest group (UPF <6.6% of total food consumption). Specifically, there was an increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related mortality (hazard ratio 1.58, 95% CI 1.23-2.03), ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease mortality (hazard ratio 1.52, 95% CI 1.10-2.09), and mortality from any cause (hazard ratio 1.26, 95% CI 1.09-1.46). When the researchers analyzed which nutritional factors were implicated in the increased health risks, 36.3% of the increased mortality from ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease was accounted for by high sugar content. They also found that the impact on renal function accounted for 20.1% of the effect on all-cause mortality and 12.0% of the cardiovascular disease mortality.Bonaccio M, Castelnuovo A, Costanzo S, et al. Ultra-processed food consumption is associated with increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the Moli-sani Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Dec 18;nqaa299. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa299. Online ahead of print.
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