Ultra-Processed Foods Deemed Harmful To Health, But Term’s Meaning Debated

Higher consumption of so-called ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) incidence and mortality, with each additional daily serving found to further increase risk, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“The consumption of ultra-processed foods makes up over half of the daily calories in the average American diet and are increasingly consumed worldwide,” said Filippa Juul, MS, PhD, a faculty fellow at the New York University School of Public Health and lead author of the study. “Our findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting cardiovascular benefits of limiting ultra-processed foods.

“Ultra-processed foods are ubiquitous and include many foods that are marketed as healthy, such as protein bars, breakfast cereals and most industrially produced breads,” Juul continued. “Population-wide strategies such as taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and other ultra-processed foods and recommendations regarding processing levels in national dietary guidelines are needed to reduce the intake of ultra-processed foods.”

Using a modified version of the NOVA framework, which classifies foods according to the extent and purpose of the industrial processing they undergo, researchers classified food questionnaire food items into five categories:
• Unprocessed or minimally processed foods, including fresh, dry or frozen animal and plant foods. Milk is included in this category.
• Processed culinary ingredients, including table sugar, oils, fats, salts and other items used in kitchens to make culinary preparations.
• Processed foods, which are industrial products made by adding salt, sugar or other substances found in group two to group one foods, using preservation methods such as canning and, in the case of cheeses and breads, using non-alcoholic fermentation. Food processing here aims to ...

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