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Consuming ultra-processed foods increases the risk of mortality from chronic respiratory diseases, finds study

New research found that a diet high in ultra-processed foods could increase the risk of dying from chronic respiratory diseases. The study highlights the importance of limiting intake of such foods.

Written By: Rahul Pratyush New Delhi Published on: April 13, 2024 16:11 IST
Processed foods
Image Source : SHUTTERSTOCK Processed foods linked to chronic respiratory diseases

A new research study spanning almost two decades has found that a diet high in ultra-processed foods could significantly increase the risk of dying from chronic respiratory diseases. Such foods, which are "nutritionally inferior," contribute to inflammation and worsen lung conditions, as they are poor sources of essential nutrients such as antioxidants, according to the study published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

The research found that a diet having more than 40% of ultra-processed foods had a 26% higher risk of death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disorder that blocks airflow, causing difficulty in breathing. Furthermore, researchers found that these diets raised the general overall risk of dying from chronic respiratory diseases, such as lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma by 10%.

The study analysed data collected from more than 96,000 people in the US from 1999-2018. The researchers discovered that participants who consumed the largest amount of ultra-processed foods were typically younger with a higher BMI, a greater risk of diabetes, emphysema, and high blood pressure, as well as lower overall dietary quality. "Participants who consumed the largest amount of ultra-processed foods were typically younger with a higher BMI and a greater risk of diabetes, emphysema and high blood pressure as well as had lower overall dietary quality," lead author Tefera Mekonnen, a PhD candidate at The University of Adelaide, Australia, said.

Examples of ultra-processed foods include chips, chocolate, lollies, biscuits, processed meat, fried chicken, soft drinks, and ice cream. "These foods are full of preservatives and additives that get into the bloodstream and may contribute to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, exacerbating respiratory conditions," Mekonnen said.

The researchers said that this study is one of the most extensive investigations to date on the impact of ultra-processed foods on respiratory health. The study suggests that limiting intake of ultra-processed foods could significantly improve respiratory health and reduce the risk of mortality from chronic respiratory diseases.

Lead author Tefera Mekonnen, a PhD candidate at The University of Adelaide, Australia, said that future research that explores mechanisms of how diets impact respiratory health is needed.

(with PTI inputs)

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