Excessive Processed Food Intake Lowers Heart Health

There exists a link between ultra-processed foods and adverse cardiovascular health, according to preliminary research that was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019.

In this study, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed the results of 13,446 adults, age 20 and older, who completed a 24-hour dietary recall and answered questions about their cardiovascular health.

Subsequent to survey analysis, the CDC researchers found that for every 5% increase in calories from ultra-processed foods a person consumed, there was a corresponding decrease in overall cardiovascular health. Moreover, the researchers observed that adults who ate approximately 70% of their calories from ultra-processed foods were half as likely to have optimal cardiovascular health.

“Healthy diets play an important role in maintaining a healthy heart and blood vessels,” said Zefeng Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the CDC in a press release about the study. “Eating ultra-processed foods often displaces healthier foods that are rich in nutrients, like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, which are strongly linked to good heart health. In addition, ultra-processed foods are often high in salt, added sugars, saturated fat and other substances associated with increasing the risk of heart disease.”

“This study underscores the importance of building a healthier diet by eliminating foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages, cookies, cakes and other processed foods,” said Donna Arnett, Ph.D., past-president of the American Heart Association and dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

“There are things you can do every day to improve your health just a little bit. For example, instead of grabbing that loaf of white bread, grab a loaf of bread that’s whole grain or wheat bread. Try replacing a hamburger with fish once or twice a week. Making small changes can add up to better heart health.”