As experts warn ultra-processed foods increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, what are they and how can you avoid them? | UK News

Understanding the Elevated Cardiovascular Disease Risk Linked to Ultra-Processed Foods: Expert Insights and Strategies to Navigate

Consuming foods laden with artificial components can lead to gut inflammation, appetite regulation disruption, and hormone level alterations, warns a food campaigner. Recent findings presented at the European Society of Cardiology in Amsterdam underscore that ultra-processed foods (UPF) may significantly escalate the chances of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

One study presented reveals that incorporating items like breakfast cereals, soft drinks, and fast food in one’s diet could amplify the risk of cardiovascular disease by nearly 25%. Typically characterized by having five or more ingredients, including additives uncommon in home cooking, UPFs account for over half of British diets.

The University of Sydney conducted research on more than 10,000 middle-aged women across 15 years, finding that those with the highest proportion of UPFs in their diets exhibited a 39% higher likelihood of developing high blood pressure compared to those with lower UPF consumption.

China’s Fourth Military Medical University’s study disclosed that individuals consuming the most UPFs had an almost 25% increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, or angina. Even a mere 10% increase in UPF intake escalated the risk of heart disease considerably. Conversely, individuals with less than 15% UPFs in their diet displayed the lowest likelihood of heart-related medical issues.

While acknowledging a nonlinear link between UPF consumption and cardiovascular events, researchers emphasized that heavy UPF consumption significantly correlated with a heightened risk of such events.

UPFs encompass a range of items subjected to industrial processes, often containing preservatives, high levels of saturated fat, salt, and sugar. They crowd out room for more nutritious alternatives in the diet. This category includes fizzy drinks, sweets, hot dogs, sausages, ready meals, and more.

It’s important to note that seemingly “natural” items like supermarket bread, cereal bars, and fruit yogurts can also fall under the UPF category due to the inclusion of extra ingredients during production.

Experts advocate for a Mediterranean diet rich in minimally or unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and whole grains. The alarming findings serve as a wake-up call, urging countries like the UK to reconsider their consumption patterns and address the potential long-term consequences of excessive UPF intake.

Food campaigner Henry Dimbleby suggests that the UK’s reliance on UPFs is a concern that could impact the healthcare system in the future. Dr. Chris van Tulleken, a TV doctor, equates the effects of UPFs to those of smoking, emphasizing their potential to inflame the gut, disrupt appetite, alter hormones, and trigger various other detrimental effects contributing to cardiovascular risks.


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