"Ultra-processed foods are manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients, which usually include additives used for technological and / or cosmetic purposes," wrote the authors of the report. study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. "Ultra-processed foods are mainly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts or ready-to-eat or hot meals", and their consumption "has increased significantly in recent decades".

This trend could lead to an increase in early deaths from chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, they say.

In the United States, 61% of an adult's total diet is derived from ultra-processed foods, 62% in Canada and 63% in the United Kingdom. recent study found. Yet research also indicates that eating ultra-processed foods can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and cancer, according to the study's authors.

To understand the relationship between ultra-processed foods and the risk of death earlier than expected, researchers sought the help of 44,551 French adults aged 45 and over for two years. Their average age was 57 and nearly 73% of the participants were women. All provided dietary surveys 24 hours a day, every six months, and completed health questionnaires (including body mass index and other measures), physical activity and socio-demographic data. .

The researchers calculated the overall food intake and ultra-processed food consumption of each participant.

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

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During the study period, 602 participants died. After adjusting for factors such as smoking, the researchers calculated an associated risk of premature death higher by 14% for each 10% increase in the proportion ultra-processed foods consumed.

Further studies are needed to confirm these results, say the authors. Nevertheless, they speculate that additives, packaging (chemicals contained in food during storage) and the treatment itself, including high temperature treatment, may be the factors having a negative effect about health.

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"The findings make sense, given what we know so far about the deleterious effects of food additives on brain function and health, but the observed effects are minimal," wrote Molly Bray, Chair of the Department of Science. of the University of Texas nutrition. in Austin, in an email. She did not participate in the research.

Nurgul Fitzgerald, associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers, at the State University of New Jersey, congratulated the authors for a "solid" design study.

However, "ultra-processed" is a huge category of foods and, by grouping so many things, researchers have lost the sensitivity of their results and can not accurately determine what is causing the disease. Effect observed in the study, said Fitzgerald, who did not participate in the work. research.

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"Some factors may be more harmful or less harmful than others, it's really too complex," she said, adding that we could not "run with" these results.

Why do people eat more of these processed foods?

"We live in a fast world and people are looking for practical solutions, we are always short of time," Fitzgerald said. "People are looking for quick fixes, a quick meal."

When selecting foods, taste is the # 1 factor for most consumers, but price and convenience are also important, and with ultra-processed foods, this convenience factor is "probably the first in the world." list: ready to eat, ready to eat. "

Fitzgerald recommends that people look not only at the front of a package when they buy cooked dishes, but also at the back.

"Look at the list of ingredients – do you understand all the ingredients that go into your food?" she asked. Only buy products "containing the least ingredients and with ingredients you understand".