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Processed food raises heart attack risk

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People whose diet is mainly made up of processed foods—even the supposed ‘healthy’ low-fat options—are much more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

Men and women raise their risk by 24 percent, and women who eat processed foods, including ‘healthy’ protein bars, low-fat yoghurt and brown sliced bread, are 39 percent more likely to suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension).

Researchers estimate that eating ultra-processed food (UPF) is as dangerous as smoking, and they are calling on governments to step in to restrict access to the foods or face ‘a tidal wave of harm’ that health services will be unable to deal with.  UPF represents half the calories the average Briton consumes every day.  

One meta-analysis of 10 studies which involved more than 325,000 people discovered that those eating the most UPFs in their diet were 24 percent more likely to develop heart disease that resulted in a heart attack or stroke.

A separate study found that women who regularly ate UPFs for 15 years were 39 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than those who ate little or none of the foods.  Researchers from the University of Sydney say the problem could be greater in the UK as 57 percent of the British diet consists of UPFs, a third higher than in the average Australian diet.

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Proceedings of the European Society of Cardiology Congress, August 27, 2023
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