Researchers have a stern warning about eating ultra-processed food

Yet another study has linked the consumption of ultra-processed foods — things like potato chips and breakfast cereals — with a drastic increase in cardiovascular disease and death risk. The new research was recently published by the American College of Cardiology; it notes, among other things, that every daily serving of ultra-processed food causes the risk to increase.

Ultra-processed food accounts for more than half of the calories found in the typical US diet — and that's a big problem, the growing body of research reveals. Though it's easy to spot so-called 'junk food,' experts note that ultra-processed food may come in deceptive forms like protein bars marketed as healthy.

There are multiple issues with ultra-processed foods that contribute to their risk: excessive processing could remove some of the beneficial compounds, plus these foods often have high levels of fat, sugar, oil, and food additives. Beyond that, the researchers note that processing food changes its structure.

Eating too much ultra-processed food like pre-packaged snacks may contribute to the development of chronic diseases like type-2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. This latest study focused on cardiovascular disease, the risk of which can be reduced by changing certain lifestyle habits.

The research involved data on more than 3,000 people who participated in the Framingham Offspring Study; they were middle-aged, didn't have pre-existing cardiovascular disease, and mostly Caucasian. The participants self-reported their food consumption. The researchers examined the number of 'hard' cardiovascular disease, hard coronary heart disease, and related events that took place among the participants during an average follow-up period of 18 years.

Using this data, the study linked ultra-processed foods with an increased risk of such events (heart attack, stroke, and sudden coronary events), including death, compared to the risk of eating a diet low in ultra-processed foods. Beyond that, the study notes that every serving of these processed foods daily was linked to a 7-percent increase in the risk of hard cardiovascular disease and a 9-percent increase in the risk of hard coronary heart disease.