May 31, 2023

Ultra-processed foods can cause 57,000 premature deaths in Brazil each year | health

A group of researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) has come to the conclusion that thousands of people die prematurely in the country due to excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods. In an article published in American Journal of Preventive MedicineThe authors estimate that this number could reach 57,000 deaths annually.

The methodology used in the study included cross-over analyzes by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). personal food consumption In the national territory and data from population mortality. The information was classified by age groups, between men and women, from the age of 30 years.

This intergenerational reduction is designed to reflect on the concept of premature death due to non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs). As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), it takes into account the probability that individuals between the ages of 30 and 70 will die from cardiovascular or respiratory diseases, cancer, and diabetes.

There is already a lot of evidence linking increased consumption of ultra-processed foods to the risk of cardiovascular disease. Thus, the research team decided to evaluate the daily caloric intake of each group based on the nature of their processing, in order to investigate the effect of ultra-processed foods, and thus indicate the effect of this diet on mortality rates.

Excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods

Through the recent survey of personal food consumption in Brazil, with reference to the years 2017 and 2018, the percentage represented by calories eaten came from the consumption of ultra-processed foods. The team found that all groups consumed at least 13% of their total calories through these products.

Highly processed foods in total calories

age categories men (%) slim (%)
30-34 18.4 21
35-39 18.6 19
40-44 15.5 18.5
45-49 18.1 18.4
50-54 15.4 17.4
55-59 14.6 16.2
60-64 13 16.3
65-69 14.2 16

According to the study, the people with the healthiest diet are men between the ages of 60 and 64, with only 13% of consumption represented by ultra-processed foods. In contrast, the group of greatest concern is women between the ages of 30 and 34, whose intake of these products accounts for 21% of daily calories.

to USP JournalThe first author of the research, Eduardo Nilsson, notes that information for 2017/2018 still shows that there was a 20% increase in consumption of ultra-processed products, compared to the previous survey, from 2007/2008.

He believes that this increase is the result of marketing campaigns around these foods and the high prices of fresh products. “The substitution occurred in all groups of society, regardless of income. But it cannot be denied that it has a greater impact on the population at risk. Instant noodles and biscuits with filling are food symbols of this situation, ”the expert highlights.

The study also calculates how many deaths could be avoided under different scenarios of reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods. With consumption reduced by 10%, for example, 5,900 people (3,500 men and 2,400 women) would not die of chronic disease during the year.

This number increases further as the amount of ultra-processed foods eaten decreases. At the 20% reduction, the value goes to 12,000 individuals (7,100 men and 4,800 women). When you cut out 50% of these foods, the total number of lives saved jumps to 29,300 (17,400 men and 11,900 women).