Ultra-processed foods increase risk of respiratory diseases

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Last reviewed: 14.06.2024

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02 June 2024, 15:30

A new study from SAHMRI and the University of Adelaide has found that a diet high in ultra-processed foods (UFPs) significantly increases the risk of mortality from chronic respiratory diseases.

Led by graduate student Tefer Mekonnen, the study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, was based on an analysis of data from more than 96,000 people living in the United States collected over period from 1999 to 2018. The study examined how consumption of highly processed foods affects various chronic respiratory diseases.

"We found that people whose diet consisted of more than 40% VP had a 26% higher risk of death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and an overall risk of death from chronic respiratory diseases, including lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma increased by 10%," Mekonnen noted.

"Those who consumed the highest amounts of OPS tended to be younger, have a higher body mass index and a greater risk of diabetes, emphysema and high blood pressure, and their overall diet was of lower quality."

Examples of ultra-processed foods include chips, chocolate, candy, cookies, processed meats, fried chicken, soda, ice cream, and others.

“These products contain many preservatives and additives that enter the bloodstream and can contribute to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, worsening respiratory health,” Mekonnen added.

This study is one of the largest to date on the effects of ultra-processed foods on respiratory health.

Researchers believe there will be no significant differences between the United States and other Western countries such as Australia because the population follows similar diets.

“Our research shows that reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods can significantly improve respiratory health and reduce the risk of mortality from chronic respiratory diseases,” Mekonnen said.

Further research requires a more detailed understanding of the mechanisms through which dietary factors influence respiratory health.

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