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WARNING: The foods linked to 32 harmful health conditions

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Dubbed the world’s largest research project, the Ultra-processed food exposure and adverse health review, has determined that ultra-processed foods have been directly linked to 32 harmful effects on our health and wellbeing, including a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, adverse mental health and early death.

There is a proven worldwide increase in the massive consumption of processed foods like cereals, protein bars, fizzy drinks, ready-to-eat meals, and fast food.

The results

The findings published in the BMJ suggest diets high in UPF (ultra-processed foods) may be harmful to many elements of health. The results of the review involving almost 10 million people highlighted a need for measures to target and reduce exposure to UPF, the researchers have said.

The review involved experts from a number of leading institutions, including Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US, the University of Sydney and Sorbonne University in France.

Writing in the BMJ, they concluded: “Overall, direct associations were found between exposure to ultra-processed foods and 32 health parameters spanning mortality, cancer, and mental, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and metabolic health outcomes.”

“Greater exposure to ultra-processed food was associated with a higher risk of adverse health outcomes, especially cardiometabolic, common mental disorders and mortality outcomes.

“These findings provide a rationale to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of using population-based and public-health measures to target and reduce dietary exposure to ultra-processed foods for improved human health.”

Overall, the results show that higher exposure to UPF was consistently associated with an increased risk of 32 adverse health outcomes, The BMJ reported.

What are Ultra-processed foods?

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Ultra-processed foods include packaged baked goods and snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, and ready-to-eat or ready meals, that often undergo multiple industrial processes and often contain colours, emulsifiers, flavours and other additives.

These products also tend to be high in added sugar, fat, and/or salt, but are low in vitamins and fibre.

Health risks involved


Convincing evidence showed that higher Ultra-processed foods intake was associated with:

  • 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death
  • 48 to 53% higher risk of anxiety and common mental disorders
  • 12% greater risk of type 2 diabetes

    Highly suggestive evidence also indicated that higher processed foods intake was associated with:
  • 21% greater risk of death from any cause
  • 40 to 66% increased risk of heart disease related death, obesity, type 2 diabetes and sleep problems
  • 22% increased risk of depression

There was also evidence for associations between UPF and asthma, gastrointestinal health, some cancers and cardiometabolic risk factors, such as high blood fats and low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, although the researchers cautioned the evidence for these links remains limited.

Dr Chris van Tulleken, an associate professor at University College London and one of the world’s leading UPF experts, said the findings were “entirely consistent” with a now “enormous number of independent studies which clearly link a diet high in UPF to multiple damaging health outcomes including early death”.

“We have good understanding of the mechanisms by which these foods drive harm. In part it is because of their poor nutritional profile – they are often high in saturated fat, salt and free sugar.

“But the way they are processed is also important – they’re engineered and marketed in ways which drive excess consumption – for example, they are typically soft and energy dense and aggressively marketed usually to disadvantaged communities.”

Benefits of ditching processed foods

Aside from the above mentioned health conditions you may suffer from eating too many processed foods, other benefits of ditching processed and fast foods all together include:

  • Weight loss
  • Clear skin
  • Healthier eyes
  • Stronger nails
  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Shiny hair
  • Better moods
  • Balanced hormones
  • Better immune system – less coughs and colds
  • Fewer headaches
  • More regular bowel movements

Healthy fakeaway recipes

Mums share their favourite FAKEAWAY recipes!

If you just can’t give up your favourite takeaway or fast food treat, never fear. The Healthy Mummy app has thousands of healthier alternatives that you can still enjoy including:

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Homemade Pizza Dough 220 calories

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Janice Thomas says “Fakeaway Friday’s dinner tonight is the Chicken and pineapple pizza. It’s a favorite in my home”.

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Beef in Black Bean Sauce*

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Libby Butler says “Beef in Black Bean Sauce with Zoodles from the 28 Day Challenge – oh so good! Fakeaway beats take away any night!”.

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Homemade Healthy Chicken Nuggets – 331 calories

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Michelle Arnephy says “My kids LOVE store bought chicken nuggets so I tried the healthy chicken nuggets from the App and they are a HUGE hit. I was even told they are 100% better than store bought..well that I didn’t expect!”

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Dani Stormont says “Healthy Chicken Nuggets for dinner tonight….. Kid style and Mummy style (its all in the presentation and I have added parmesan, the salad is exactly the same haha). I love the simplicity of this recipe, so easy…. and the kids prefer them over store bought processed ones….. win win!”.

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Easy Chicken Nachos – 376 calories

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Chelsea Limmer says “Yum, yum, yum….. tonight is “take away night” in our house, but who needs take away when you’ve got the Challenge hub filled with glorious take away recipes, recreated to be a healthy alternative? Best thing is, it tastes so much better!!

I had some chicken breast in the fridge that needed to be used. All it took was a few seconds checking the challenge recipe hub. Voila, a quick and easy meal that everyone in the house loved”.

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Chicken Laksa – 390 calories

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Sally Steph. says “In honour of Fakeaway Friday, it’s Chicken Laksa for dinner tonight! Finally checking out the awesomeness you ladies have been talking about all week. And it did not disappoint!

The best thing about it is, everything (all 5 ingredients) was pre-cut, so it took 15 only minutes to cook and serve!”

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Pasta Carbonara – 438 calories

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Eleanor Hannah says “Hello Fresh Healthy Pasta Carbonara!

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