According to a large study, regularly consuming ultra-processed foods may increase your risk of 32 diseases, including mental health disorders, cancer, heart and lung conditions, and even early death.

Ultra-processed foods go through several industrial processes and frequently include colors, emulsifiers, flavors, and other additives. Examples of these foods include packaged baked goods and snacks, carbonated drinks, sugary cereals, and ready-to-eat or heat products. These products also frequently have low vitamin and fiber contents and high added sugar, fat, and/or salt content.

Strong evidence was discovered by an international team of researchers from Australia, the US, France, and Ireland, linking higher intake of ultra-processed foods to a roughly 50% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, a 48–53% increased risk of anxiety, and common mental disorders, and a 12 per cent greater risk of type 2 diabetes.

The results, which were published in The BMJ, are based on an umbrella review, or high-level evidence summary, of 14 review articles with nearly 10 million participants and 45 different pooled meta-analyses. None of them received funding from manufacturers of highly processed foods.

Additionally, the researchers discovered evidence linking a higher intake of ultra-processed foods to a 21 per cent increased risk of death from all causes, a 40–66 per cent increased risk of death related to heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, sleep issues, and a 22 per cent increased risk of depression.

Melissa M. Lane, an associate research fellow at Deakin University, Australia, stated, “These findings support urgent mechanistic research and public health actions that seek to target and minimise ultra-processed food consumption for improved population health.”

Furthermore, researchers urged public policies and action on ultra-processed foods in a linked editorial, stating that these foods shorten life and harm health.

“These include front-of-pack labels, restricting advertising and prohibiting sales in or near schools and hospitals, and fiscal and other measures that make unprocessed or minimally processed foods and freshly prepared meals as accessible and available as and cheaper than ultra-processed foods.”

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