Summary: Increased consumption of highly processed foods was associated with more than 10% of all-cause early, preventable deaths.
Ultra-processed foods (UPFs), ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat industrial formulations made with ingredients extracted from foods or synthesized in laboratories, are gradually replacing traditional foods and meals made from fresh and minimally processed ingredients in many countries.
a new study in the field American Journal of Preventive Medicine It found that the increase in consumption of these foods in Brazil in 2019 was associated with more than 10% of all-cause early, preventable deaths, but that Brazilians consumed these products much less than in high-income countries.
“Previous modeling studies had estimated the health and economic burden of critical ingredients such as sodium, sugar, and trans fats, and certain foods and beverages, such as sugar-sweetened beverages,” said lead investigator Eduardo AF Nilson, ScD, Center for Epidemiological Research. Nutrition and Health, University of São Paulo and Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil.
“To our knowledge, no studies to date have estimated the potential impact of UPFs on premature deaths. Knowing the deaths attributable to the consumption of these foods and modeling how changes in dietary patterns can support more effective food policies can prevent disease and premature death.”
Dr. Nilson and colleagues modeled data from nationally representative dietary surveys to estimate baseline intakes of UPFs by gender and age group. Statistical analyzes were used to estimate the overall mortality attributable to UPF consumption and the effect of reducing UPF intake by 10%, 20%, and 50% in these age groups, using 2019 data.
Across all age groups and gender strata, UPF consumption ranged from 13% to 21% of total food intake in Brazil during the period studied. In 2019, a total of 541,260 adults aged 30 to 69 died prematurely, of which 261,061 were from preventable, noncommunicable diseases.
The model found that nearly 57,000 deaths that year could be attributed to consumption of UPF, which accounts for 10.5% of all premature deaths in adults aged 30 to 69 and 21.8% of all deaths from preventable NCDs.
In high-income countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, where UPFs account for more than half of total caloric intake, the estimated effect would be even greater, the researchers suggested.
Dr. Nilson noted that UPFs have steadily replaced the consumption of traditional whole foods such as rice and beans in Brazil over time. Reducing the consumption of UPFs and promoting healthier food choices may require multiple interventions and public health measures, including fiscal and regulatory policies, changing food environments, strengthening enforcement of food-based dietary guidelines, and improving consumer knowledge, attitudes and behaviour.
Reducing UPF consumption by 10% to 50% could potentially prevent approximately 5,900 to 29,300 premature deaths each year in Brazil.
Dr. “Consumption of UPFs is associated with many disease outcomes, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other diseases, and represents a major cause of preventable and premature death among Brazilian adults,” said Nilson.
“Reducing UPF consumption to levels just a decade ago would reduce associated premature deaths by 21%. Policies to deter the consumption of UPFs are urgently needed.”
Having a tool for estimating deaths attributable to the consumption of UPFs could help countries estimate the burden of dietary changes associated with the industrial processing of food and design more effective food policy options to promote healthier food environments.
Examples of UPFs are prepackaged soups, sauces, frozen pizza, ready-to-eat meals, hot dogs, hot dogs, sodas, ice cream, and store-bought cookies, muffins, candies, and doughnuts.
About this diet and death research news
Author: press office
Communication: Press Office – Elsevier
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Original research: The results will appear in: American Journal of Preventive Medicine