Eating Ultra-Processed Foods Shortens Lifespan

February 18, 2019 | Wellness Resources

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 Eating Ultra-Processed Foods Shortens Lifespan
Modern day America has become obsessed with processed foods. A new study shows that eating ‘ultra-processed’ food shortens your life span. While it may not come as a big surprise that eating more fruits and vegetables is better for health than eating junk food, we now know just how bad junk food really is.

This French study monitored 44,551 people (73% women) over 45 years old for two years to assess the connection between processed food consumption and all-cause mortality. All participants provided food journals and personal information every six months to measure diet, physical activity, sociodemographics, BMI, and other measurements.

When researchers accounted for cigarette smoking and other variables, ultra-processed food intake was found to increase the rate of all-cause mortality by 14% for every 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed foods consumed.

The intake of ultra-processed foods accounted for more than 14% of the weight of total food consumed and about 29% of calories, researchers found. Interestingly, ultra-processed food intake was associated with a lower age, lower income, lower education level, higher BMI, lower physical activity level, and living alone.

The authors state that more studies are needed to draw conclusions, but the results provide us with some statistics that might encourage you to try and incorporate some of these helpful tips for healthier eating:

1. Start with Whole Foods
Eat a diet that is rooted in whole foods that are without a label, high in fiber, low in sugar, and free of hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Shopping on the outside edges of the grocery store and avoiding the insides will help to ensure you are choosing nutritious whole foods. Better yet, check out the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” lists released by the Environmenal Worker’s Group (EWG) each year. These lists report which fruits and vegetables are best to buy organic – and which ones you can save your money on. 

2. Learn to Cook
We all know we would benefit from eating more greens than sweets, but knowledge of this fact isn't always enough to make change. Unless you really like salads (in which case, go for it!), then you are likely going to want to learn how to make fruits and vegetables and other whole foods more palatable than they first come out of the ground. Buy a cook book, take a class, or browse the internet. Make it fun!

3. Read Labels
We live in a fast paced world. People are more stretched for time and looking for a quickly made meal. Convenience is a huge factor driving the rise in ultra-processed food intake. There has been a rise in convenience foods available, but you can take steps to improve your health even if you are pressed for time. Buy products that contain ingredients you recognize with the shortest ingredient list possible. How much sugar does the product contain? The goal is to consume NO added sugar! Companies can sneak sugar into products under the guise of different sneaky names. Familiarize yourself with all the different ways companies will list sugar.

The takeaway of this study is that a modern convenience diet with ultra-processed foods is simply not what your body wants! It is critical to increase intake of whole foods including a variety of vegetables, fruits, high-quality proteins, nuts, seeds, and unprocessed grains. Eating like our grandparent’s generation did in eating three meals a day, not snacking, and taking the time to plan and prepare meals is of top importance. As it turns out, our lives depend on it!

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