Research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has modelled the impact of ultra-processed food consumption on premature and preventable deaths in Brazil in 2019. According to the research, increased intake of these foods was associated with more than 10% of premature deaths in Brazil in 2019, representing about 57,000 deaths.
The study is original and based on a very large sample. The main problem is that the authors have not included very important confounding factors such as social class, and this factor may generate residual or unaccounted for confounding in the study.
The study has important implications because many deaths could be prevented just by changing the dietary habits of the general population, but further studies confirming these results and taking into account confounding factors such as the standard of living of the population are lacking.
Biologist and biostatistician at the Research and Scientific Support Unit of the Research Institute of the Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre and lecturer of the Degree in Nutrition at the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria.
The results of this study reflect the negative effect of ultra-processed foods on health, specifically mortality, which has been observed in other studies in different countries.
The novelty of this study is that it looks at premature deaths, defined as deaths occurring between the ages of 30 and 70 years, attributable to the consumption of ultra-processed foods, and how changes in dietary patterns can reduce this number of deaths.
The implications are clear and repeated: reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods and implement a diet based on unprocessed or minimally processed foods. These changes in nutritional habits have a positive impact on health and can prevent many premature deaths in the adult population.
It should be noted that the results of this study only apply to the adult population and not to children or young people, as premature deaths in this case only cover the adult age range.
There are some limitations to this study, such as factors that have not been taken into account in the study and could exert a confounding effect, and in the case of mortality it was not possible to establish the specific causes of death for those premature deaths attributable to ultra-processed food consumption.