Study: Eating Ultraprocessed Foods May Lead To Early Death

Dr. Deanna Lites
February 12, 2019 - 12:23 pm
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DETROIT (WWJ) - Eating junk food could eventually kill you, according to a new study.

WWJ's Dr. Deanna Lites reports highly processed foods including sugary cereals, pizza and ready-to-heat meals on average make up more than 60 percent of an adult's diet in the U.S. 

But consumer beware: a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found a diet high in highly processed foods like these may lead to an early death.

"I think we've kind of known a little bit that processed foods are probably just not good for us in general, but of course in our society today and the way we need to get things quickly are probably easiest for us to get," said Dr. Sindhu Koshy, a cardiologist with Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital.

"People are likely to have cancers, cardiovascular disease and to die earlier eating ultraprocessed foods," she said. "So, although it's the first study of its kind, their conclusion was that these things may eventually kill you, so we want to try to avoid ultraprocessed foods as much as possible."

For the study, researchers asked around 45,000 thousand healthy middle-aged adults in France to keep daily food diaries for two years. The people who ate junk food just here and there weren't as affected.

"It was really the more you ate the worse it was. So people who ate ultraprocessed foods or processed foods did worse over time," Koshy said.

While the results of the study weren't exactly a surprise, Koshy said this serves as a reminder of what we should be eating.

"We know of know as we try to be healthier and we know about the obesity epidemic in the country, we know what's better for us is eating more natural, whole foods, avoiding processed foods as much as possible -- and I think this study just basically proved that point." 

Koshy suggests choosing fresh proteins and vegetables whenever possible, avoiding canned foods that are packed with salt and other preservatives. Frozen is typically better for you than canned, but take the time to read the ingredients listed the package before you buy.

"Really, if there's a lot of preservatives that you don't know what they are on a label, then it's probably not something that is safe to eat."

The takeaway, the doctor said: "We need to find a way to balance convenience versus what's healthy."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Servives and the USDA, a healthy eating pattern includes:

  • A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups — dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Oils

A healthy eating pattern limits saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars and sodium.

Need more guidance? Ask your doctor to help you put together a plan.