Sausages and Other ‘Ultra Processed’ Food Could Increase the Risk of Early Death by 60%
Eating sausages and other “ultra processed foods” could increase the risk of early death by 60 per cent, research suggests. Two studies, published in the BMJ, link ready meals and other foods containing high levels of added fat and sugar to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
The research found that those eating four portions a day of such foods had a 62 per cent increased mortality risk, compared with those consuming less than two servings daily. Each serving increased the risk of early death by almost a fifth. Scientists said millions of people should change their diets, cutting out processed meats and convenience meals, in favour of more natural fare. And they warned that modern lifestyles meant up to 60 per cent of daily energy intake was now coming from factory-produced foods.
A series of studies have recently linked consumption of processed foodstuffs to a number of diseases, including cancer and heart disease, but scientists still do not fully understand the exact cause behind the link. Such meals often have a higher content of total fat, saturated fat and added sugar and salt along with a lower fibre and vitamin density. They can can also contain additives such as sodium nitrite and titanium oxide, which have been linked to high blood pressure and cancer.
Researchers called for policies to urgently limit people’s intake of such foods which include fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, packaged baked goods and snacks, dehydrated vegetable soups and reconstituted meat and fish products.
One study, led by the University of Navarra, in Spain, involved almost 20,000 adults, with an average age of 38, who were asked to complete detailed questionnaires about their daily habits. This found that those eating four portions a day of highly processed foods had a 62 per cent increased mortality risk, compared with those eating less than two.
Scientists said a healthy diet meant limiting factory-produced foods, suggesting that the Mediterranean diet, rich in fish, vegetables and legumes, protects best against chronic diseases. They also raised fears that Government policies aimed at “reformulating” meals to reduce their calorie content could prove dangerous.
The second study, led by Paris-Sorbonne University, found that every 10 per cent increase in consumption of “ultra-processed food” was linked to a 13 per cent increase in rates of heart disease, and an 11 per cent risk in diseases which cause strokes. The findings were based on questionnaires completed by more than 105,000 French adults, for an average of six days, measuring their usual intake of 3,300 different food items.
Both studies were observational so could not prove the diets caused the increased risks of disease and early death. But both took account of other lifestyle risk factors and markers of dietary quality.
In a commentary, scientists suggested that Government policies which encourage manufacturers to alter the way foods are made, in order to cut their calorie content, could prove deadly. In the UK, ministers have set targets to cut the calorie content of common foods by 20 per cent by 2024.