Eating ready meals and chocolate snacks linked to deadly diseases

039;It's another step in our understanding of the link between ultra-processed food and health.'

A new study has laid bare the dangers of consuming "ultra-processed" food - a category that contains white bread, ready meals, sausages, sugary cereals, fizzy drinks, and crisps.

Some ultra-processed foods contained large amounts of salt, and high sodium intake has been associated with higher rates of cardiovascular deaths and stomach cancer.

Ultra-processed foods go through processes like heating and are often full of additives.

The relationship between diet and disease is complex and the results of studies are frequently misinterpreted.

A recent study found that 61% of an adult's diet in the USA, 62% in Canada, and 63% in the United Kingdom came from ultra-processed foods. The research, published in the journal Jama Internal Medicine, found that deaths were more likely to occur in those who ate more ultra-processed food.

Scientists in France who studied more than 44,500 men and women aged 45 and older uncovered a strong link between eating badly and mortality. Every six months they were asked to fill out surveys about everything they consumed in 24 hours.

After seven years, about 600 people died.

"An increase in ultra-processed foods consumption appears to be associated with an overall higher mortality risk among this adult population", the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

But Touvier warned that rather than focus on the figure, what matters is the existence of a statistically significant correlation - and the study is one part of growing body of work on the matter.

Other scientists were unsure whether the study proved a link between ultra-processed food and an early death, but agreed it was more evidence that a junk food diet was bad for health.

Over half of what we eat could be ultra-processed.

This percentage is actually fairly low compared to most western cultures: the diet of families in the United Kingdom reportedly consists of about 50% ultra-processed foods; this number rises to nearly 58% for Americans, according to a 2016 study.

Other scientists said it was hard to draw firm conclusions from the study, partly because the "ultra-processed" foods category was so large, ranging from packet soups to chocolate bars.

The results were self-reported, which can be inaccurate.

The burning question remains, what is it about these foods that causes negative impacts on health?

"A vital takeaway message is that consumption of highly processed foods reflects social inequalities - they are consumed disproportionately more by individuals with lower incomes or education levels, or those living alone", Forouhi said.

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