Research Over 30 Years Links Ultra-Processed Meat to Higher Early Death Risk | Totally Vegan Buzz

Research Over 30 Years Links Ultra-Processed Meat to Higher Early Death Risk

Photo: Getty Images

Ever wondered if that ready-to-eat meal might just eat away at your health? A riveting 30-year study published in The BMJ presents a hard-to-swallow reality about ultra-processed foods—especially those convenient bites of meat, poultry, seafood, sugary drinks, and dairy-based desserts. Spoiler alert: They might just be fast-tracking us to an early checkout.

Researchers have peeled back the wrapper on what many have long suspected: ultra-processed foods are not just bad for your waistline but could be dialing up the death toll. According to the study, consuming high amounts of these foods is linked to a 4% increase in overall mortality risk. The most damning evidence comes against meat, poultry, and seafood-based products, which, along with dairy desserts, show a particularly strong association with increased mortality risks.

Photo: Getty Images

The research analyzed data collected over three decades from two long-term studies: the Nurses’ Health Study, which included 74,563 female registered nurses from 11 U.S. states from 1984 to 2018, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which involved 39,501 male health professionals from all U.S. states from 1986 to 2018. None of the participants had prior histories of cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes at the outset. They provided updates on their lifestyle and health biennially, and dietary details every four years.

Dietary quality was evaluated based on the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI) score.

During the studies, 48,193 deaths were recorded:

  • 13,557 from cancer
  • 11,416 from cardiovascular diseases
  • 3,926 from respiratory diseases
  • 6,343 from neurodegenerative diseases

The studies categorized participants’ ultra-processed food intake into quartiles. Those in the highest quartile, who consumed an average of about 7 servings per day, showed a 4% increased risk of mortality from all causes. Moreover, they exhibited a 9% increased risk of death from causes other than cardiovascular diseases or cancer, which includes an 8% increased risk of mortality from neurodegenerative diseases.

The study noted that the impact of ultra-processed food on mortality varies by food type. Although it’s observational and doesn’t establish causality, the predominantly white, health-professional participant base might also limit its broader applicability.

The researchers emphasized the importance of nuanced dietary guidelines and warned against oversimplifying the effects. Yet, the consistency of the findings underscores the potential health risks of certain ultra-processed foods. “Reducing consumption of specific ultra-processed food subgroups, such as processed meats, can yield health benefits,” the researchers advocate.

Reflecting on broader health policies, the study authors urge the adoption of more rigorous food regulations to mitigate the influence of large food corporations on public health and environmental policies. They highlight the importance of global strategies that promote healthier eating and restrict unhealthy food marketing, especially to vulnerable groups

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