Researchers Raise New Concerns Over Ultra-processed Foods

The UK is on alert as ultra-processed foods present a “tidal wave of harm”.

What’s happening: New research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Amsterdam highlights conclusive links between the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPF) and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

  • Diets with a high proportion of UPFs are 39% more likely to cause high blood pressure.
  • People who eat UPFs are 24% more likely to have cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke.

More specifically, the high levels of saturated fat, salt, sugar and countless additives in these foods have been shown to impact a host of chronic health issues like obesity and diabetes but also anxiety, depression and cognitive decline.

A big problem for nations like the UK… UPFs are almost everywhere food is found.

  • 64% of adults in England are estimated to be overweight or living with obesity.
  • 80% of food sold in the UK is so unhealthy, it cannot be marketed to children under WHO guidelines, yet UPFs comprise 64% of Britain’s school meals and 29% of available baby food.

Why it matters: According to ex-UK food tsar Henry Dimbleby, the studies are a wake-up call, as more than half (57%) of the typical British daily diet is made up of ultra-processed food:

“If there is something inherent in the processing of foods that is harmful, then that is a disaster. If we do nothing, a tidal wave of harm is going to hit the NHS.”

Looking ahead: Advocates are calling on governments to actively discourage the overconsumption of processed foods by issuing new policies, including advertising bans, while simultaneously investing in programmes to encourage highly nutritious diets. With the extent of the issue, few measures would seem like an overreach.

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