Diets high in ultra-processed foods raise death risk from chronic lung conditions, study finds


PTI, Apr 10, 2024, 7:47 PM IST

Representative image (Source: Pexels)

A diet high in ultra-processed foods could significantly heighten the risk of dying from chronic respiratory diseases, a new research spanning over almost two decades has found.

Constituents of these ”nutritionally inferior” foods, which are ”poor sources of essential nutrients such as antioxidants”, contribute to inflammation and worsen lung conditions, the study published in the European Journal of Nutrition said.

A diet having more than 40 per cent of ultra-processed foods was found to have a 26 per cent higher risk of death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disorder which blocks airflow causing difficulty in breathing.

Researchers also 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 per cent. They analysed data collected from more than 96,000 people in the US from 1999-2018.

”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 the study is one of the most extensive investigations to date on the impact of ultra-processed foods on respiratory health.

”Our research suggests that limiting intake of ultra-processed foods could significantly improve respiratory health and reduce the risk of mortality from chronic respiratory diseases,” Mekonnen said.

The team said future research that explore mechanisms of how diets impact respiratory health is needed.

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