After taking a cold, hard look at the "standard American diet," it's really not surprising that these "foods" make people sick and die. Most processed foods are an amalgam of heavily refined grains, GMO corn, corn syrup, trans fats, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives. Indeed, most processed "food" isn't really food at all. And if the chemicals used to make processed food aren't bad enough on their own (they are), most food packaging contains harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds like BPA -- which can leach into food.
Processed foods are a total health disaster not only because they contain a bevy of toxic substances, but because they are nutritionally bereft food-shaped things that give your body nothing but empty calories and a blood sugar spike. Eating a McDonald's cheeseburger is practically equivalent to eating your kid's Play-doh. However, Play-doh at least comes with a warning about the high salt content and admits that while their product is non-toxic, it's not meant to be food.
Scientists from France and Spain teamed up to examine the health effects of processed foods. Their research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that a diet burdened with junk is associated with an early death.
In France, researchers from the University of Paris gathered health and diet data from 105,000 people, and then tracked them for five years. Across the board, people who ate more processed foods were at an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular issues.
"When the amount of ultra-processed food in the diet rose 10 percentage points, for example from 10% to 20%, the risk of the diseases rose 12%," The Guardian reports.
In other words, the French team found that for every ten percent of your diet that comes from processed foods, there is a 12 percent increase in your risk of having a cardiac event or developing heart disease. Past research has also linked processed food consumption to cancer.
It is worth noting that the mean consumption of processed foods among people in the French study was just 17.3 percent in women and 17.6 percent in men. The harmful effects of processed food were still easily observed, even though it made up a relatively small part of the average participant's diet. While 17 percent is kind of a lot, the average American gets 60 percent of their daily calories from processed junk.
In the French study, "low" intakes of processed foods clocked in at around 10 percent, while "high" intakes were over 20 percent. And even then, the harmful effects were still obvious.
In Spain, scientists from the University of Navarra in Pamplona monitored the eating habits of 20,000 university graduates from 1999 all the way through 2014. The researchers found that people who fell into the top 25 percent in processed food consumption (at least four portions per day) were 62 percent more likely to die than those in the bottom quarter (consuming two portions of processed foods or less per day). And with each additional serving, death risk rose another 18 percent.
Many mainstream sources are reporting that this research is inconclusive and doesn't prove that junk food is bad for you. Big Food and their ilk always try to play down the findings of any nutritional research highlighting the toxic effects of junk food. See more coverage of the latest independent research at Science.news.
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