Sue's Blog

Ultra-processed foods linked to 32 adverse health effects

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The world’s largest scientific review, involving nearly 10 million people, found that UPFs (ultra-processed foods) are associated with higher risks of multiple health problems (1). These include:

  • death from any cause
  • cancer
  • mental health problems including depression, anxiety and sleep issues
  • asthma
  • heart disease
  • gastrointestinal
  • obesity
  • diabetes type 2 and other metabolic diseases such as fatty liver disease

According to the accompanying editorial (2):

“Ultra-processed foods damage health and shorten life…"

"Overall, the authors found that diets high in ultra-processed food may be harmful to most—perhaps all—body systems...

What are ultra-processed foods?

“formulations of often chemically manipulated cheap ingredients …made palatable and attractive by using combinations of flavours, colours, emulsifiers, thickeners and other additives” (2)

In the UK and US, more than half the average diet now consists of ultra-processed foods. Some people, especially those younger, poorer or in disadvantaged areas, may consume a diet averaging up to 80% UPFs.(3)

In Australia, 42% of our calories come from ultra-processed foods. Common UPFs include mass produced breads, ready-to-heat or ready-to-eat meals like nuggets, fast foods including burgers, French fries, bakery products, breakfast cereals, fruit drinks and confectionery. (4)

Well, what took them so long to realise that these foods are harmful? Failsafers have been avoiding UPFs for decades (5).


Refs and more info


1. Lane MM et al, Ultra-processed food exposure and adverse health outcomes: umbrella review of epidemiological meta-analyses. BMJ. 2024 Feb 28;384:e077310. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2023-077310. PMID: 38418082.

2. Monteiro CA et al, Reasons to avoid ultra-processed foods. BMJ. 2024 Feb 28;384:q439. https://www.bmj.com/content/384/bmj.q439

3. Ultra-processed food 32 harmful effects health review, The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/society/2024/feb/28/ultra-processed-food-32-harmful-effects-health-review

4.The notorious UPF – What is ultra-processed food and how does it affect our health, Food and Mood Centre. https://foodandmoodcentre.com.au/2021/02/the-notorious-upf-what-is-ultra-processed-food-and-how-does-it-affect-our-health/

5. See our past blogs that have mentioned UPFs

Ultra-processed foods linked to obesity

Doctors and food intolerance

Food and drink companies dodgy tactic exposed in new report

Preservatives must change the microbiome

Dementia - propionate preservatives: French study confirms the link

Diet first for ADHD

Harm from bread preservative confirmed

Asthma - shame on you FSANZ

Beware sulphites

Antidepressants. Or diet

Prevent violence with diet

Diet, ADHD and school suspensions