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Ultra Processed Foods’ Links To 32 Diseases

A new study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) studied links between ultra-processed foods (UPFs) to a range of serious medical conditions. The result? Evidence that ultra-processed foods may not be the threat we thought they were…

Heart Attack Patient - © cicinvestments.comThe BMJ survey rated the link between CVD and heart disease
to UPFs as ‘highly suggestive’ to ‘convincing’.

The study shocked many, and alarmed those who have been advocating that they be banned, or at least cleaned up. I don’t know about you – but I was among the shocked. The study lists 32 separate diseases that have now been proven to be linked to consuming ultra-processed foods.

A little background

The study preamble succinctly sets the scene:

“Ultra-processed foods, as defined using the Nova food classification system, encompass a broad range of ready to eat products, including packaged snacks, carbonated soft drinks, instant noodles, and ready-made meals. These products are characterised as industrial formulations primarily composed of chemically modified substances extracted from foods, along with additives to enhance taste, texture, appearance, and durability, with minimal to no inclusion of whole foods.

“Analyses of worldwide ultra-processed food sales data and consumption patterns indicate a shift towards an increasingly ultra-processed global diet, although considerable diversity exists within and between countries and regions. Across high income countries, the share of dietary energy derived from ultra-processed foods ranges from 42 percent and 58 percent in Australia and the United States, respectively, to as low as 10 percent and 25 percent in Italy and South Korea.”

What they did

Researchers from a consortium of learned institutions performed a massive data-mining operation on a data pool collected from 45 separate studies on mortality, and cancer, and mental, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and metabolic health outcomes.

The results were conclusive.

What they found

Notable among the findings of the survey was the identification of several specific cancers as being linked to UPFs. But the linkage was rated low – from ‘suggestive’ to ‘weak’.

The mental health effects of UPFs were rated high – from ‘highly suggestive’ to ‘convincing’.

Of 8 metabolic health disorders studied, obesity and type 2 diabetes were rated ‘highly suggestive’. Others were rated lower, from ‘weak’ to ‘no link’.


The collected results of the survey were ‘suggestive’ to ‘highly suggestive’ that consuming UPFs was an ‘overall’ cause of death.

Only cardiovascular disease (CVD) and heart disease scored ‘highly suggestive’ or ‘convincing’ as causes of death linked to UPFs.

My take

It appears the survey shows that consuming UPFs is not as potentially unhealthy as we’ve been hearing, from those involved in other scientific studies and data-mining efforts.

That’s relatively good news for those of us old enough to have consumed a lot of UPFs over longer lifetimes. Like the largest of the tuna in the sea, we’ve ingested and suffered the effects of more UPFs than younger folks who can cut back now and reap real benefits. Now, we big tuna can rest a little easier.

I’m glad the widely-based survey revealed less-onerous stats on UPFs than – I think – we were all fearing. I know there is a lot of additional research that needs to be done to conclusively quantify the danger to our health caused by UPFs. But for now, it’s a positive development that the BMJ survey is offering a countervailing position to the doom-and-gloom warnings from previous studies.

We all have to sleep at night…

~ Maggie J.