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Stroke and heart attack rise increased by ultra-processed food

Posted on the 4th September 2023

Ultra Processed Foods Warning

Ultra-processed food (UPF) significantly raises the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and strokes, according to two new studies.

The stark research adds to a growing body of evidence that experts say exposes a “tidal wave of harm” being caused directly by UPF.

Two large studies presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s AGM, the world’s largest heart conference, showed the devastating impact UPF is having on cardiovascular health.

The first study, which tracked 10,000 women for 15 years, found that those with the highest proportion of UPF in their diet were 39 per cent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those with the lowest. This was the case even after academics adjusted for the effect of salt, sugar, and fat.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, increases the risk of serious heart conditions including heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, aortic aneurysms, kidney disease and vascular dementia.

The second study, a gold-standard meta-analysis of more than 325,000 men and women, showed those who ate the most UPF were 24 per cent more likely to have cardiovascular events including heart attacks, strokes, and angina.

Increasing daily UPF consumption in calorie intake by 10 per cent was associated with a 6 per cent increased risk of heart disease. Those with UPF making up less than 15 per cent of their diet were least at risk of any heart problems, according to the research led by the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi’an, China.

Global consumption of heavily processed items such as cereals, protein bars, fizzy drinks, ready meals, and fast food has soared in recent years. In the UK and US, well over half the average diet now consists of ultra-processed food (UPF).

For some, especially people who are younger, poorer or from disadvantaged areas, a diet comprising as much as 80 per cent UPF is typical.

Ultra-processed foods are products that have gone through multiple processes during manufacturing.

They are often high in salt and sugar and may contain additives and preservatives. Often, the foods are low in fibre and lack the nutrients present in fresh or minimally processed foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, plain yoghurt, and homemade bread.

Previous studies have linked eating higher levels of ultra-processed foods with a range of health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Related: Vegetarian diet could reduce heart attack risk

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