These foods may increase risk of a second heart attack or stroke

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Ultra-processed foods are a major public health concern for their harm on health.

In a new study from I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed in Pozzilli (Italy), researchers examined the health effects of a large dietary share of ultra-processed food on people already suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

They found a higher risk of a second heart attack (or stroke), this time fatal.

Moreover, even in people generally following the Mediterranean diet, consuming too many ultra-processed foods can be harmful.

In the study, the team followed 1,171 people for over ten years. All of them already had cardiovascular disease at the time of inclusion in the study.

They focused on the consumption of ultra-processed foods, made in part or entirely with substances not routinely used in cooking (hydrolyzed proteins, maltodextrins, hydrogenated fats, for example) and which generally contain various additives, such as dyes, preservatives, antioxidants, anticaking agents, flavor enhancers and sweeteners.

This category includes sugary and carbonated drinks, pre-packaged meals, spreads and some apparently “unsuspected” products, such as rusks, breakfast cereals, crackers and fruit yogurt.

They found people with higher consumption of ultra-processed foods have a two-thirds increased risk of a second heart attack or stroke, this time fatal, compared to participants eating these foods less frequently.

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.

In other words, even if a food is nutritionally balanced, it might still be considered ultra-processed.

Clearly, it is not the single food consumed occasionally that makes the difference, rather a diet that, as a whole, contains too many products coming from supermarket shelves.

The team says a diet based on the consumption of fresh, minimally processed products should be always preferred.

If you care about diets, please read studies about how our choice of diet can lead to the development of diabetes and findings of this healthy diet may reduce your cholesterol levels by 30%.

For more information about diets and your health, please see recent studies about this diet may help prevent high blood pressure and results showing that a healthy diet may protect your kidney health.

The study is published in the European Heart Journal. One author of the study is Marialaura Bonaccio.

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