Study results also show that the probability of dying from any cause is also 40% higher for individuals who have cardiovascular disease.
Individuals who have cardiovascular disease (CVD) and eat ultra-processed foods have a higher risk of a second heart attack or stroke and a higher chance for the second heart attack or stroke being fatal, results of a study by the department of epidemiology and prevention of the Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS) Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, show.
“The probability of dying from any cause is also 40% higher. It is important to underline that the definition of ultra-processed food is not linked to the nutritional content but rather to the process used for its preparation and storage,” Marialaura Bonaccio, researcher at the department of epidemiology and prevention at IRCCS, said in a statement.
Even if a food is nutritionally balanced, there is a chance that it could be considered ultra-processed based on the preparation and storage of the food item, she said.
A single ultra-processed food consumed occasionally does not make much of a difference, but a whole diet comprising ultra-processed foods could affect an individual’s health.
The results also show that individuals who are following the Mediterranean diet but consuming ultra-processed foods have higher health risks.
“Fresh vegetables are not the same as pre-cooked and seasoned vegetables, and the same goes for many other foods. It is a factor to be increasingly considered when advising citizens about proper nutrition,” Licia Iacoviello, director of the department of epidemiology and prevention at Neuromed, said in the statement.
Even though a diet could be rich in legumes or vegetables does not mean that it is healthy, she said.
Nutrient value should not be the sole factor in healthy and unhealthy foods, because how it is stored and prepared can contribute to how healthy a food is, Iacoviello said.
Investigators followed 1171 individuals for 10 years. All the individuals had CVD and investigators focused on the intake of ultra-processed foods, regardless of their diet, made entirely or in part of substances not routinely used in cooking.
For example, this could include substances such as hydrogenated fats, hydrolyzed proteins, and maltodextrins.
The foods were classified using the NOVA system, which rates foods according to the degree of processing, rather than nutritional value.
The findings were published in the European Heart Journal, part of the European Society of Cardiology.
Ultra-processed foods increase the risk of a second heart attack or stroke. EurekAlert. News release. November 29, 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/936063