Do you eat a lot of processed foods, I think I do. Not deliberately, but things like breakfast cereal, museli and lots of the snacks and treats that I have are highly processed. A recent article in the Guardian made me think that where I can, I should try and do some swaps if possible.
What were the studies that the article was based on? There is a French observational study which has 105,159 people in it. They recorded the subjects’ diets using repeated 24-hour diaries. The follow-up time was around 5 years, and the researchers found that there was an association between ultra-processed food and the overall risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. So not providing a causal relationship but a correlation.
The second study, also observational, examines the link between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all-cause mortality. This is a somewhat smaller study than the one above, at 19,899 participants. The participants were contacted every two years after consuming the ultra-processed foods. There were 335 deaths in total, which is a tiny proportion of 0.17% of the total follow-up population. The study found that the higher the processed content, the more likely associated all-cause death was, “for each additional serving of ultra-processed food, all cause mortality increased by 18%.”
Ultra-processed foods are those that contain things like “blending starches, sugar and saturated fats with additives such as preservatives, binders, bulkers, sweeteners, flavourings and “sensory enhancers”.” The scary things is that these foods represent 50% of the UK national diet!
So the lesson for me is that whilst these studies are still talking about correlation (versus actual causation which is soooo hard to establish) I might as well still think about my daily consumption of processed foods and try and make the following changes:
– Stop stop stop having white sugar in my tea, I should really stop the sugar altogether but it’s so hard…
– Switch away from giving my son processed cereal so often, and make oatmeal instead
– The daily treats I have “needed” whilst pregnant could be made at home, e.g. banana loaves and blueberry muffins. Might try to start a weekend tradition to bake these.
– Struggling a little on things like turkey jerky and meat sticks, as even if they are relatively “good” and organic, they are still highly processed. I can’t really see myself eating poached chicken breast as an afternoon snack, hmm.
– Night-time treats also need to change to more chocolate chips and peanut butter (another processed food I know!) instead of the cookies and cakes that we have stashed away.