Ultraprocessed food consumption and multimorbidity risk Original paper

In this prospective cohort study, higher intakes of ultraprocessed food were associated with an increased risk of developing both cancer and either cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.

This Study Summary was published on February 2, 2024.

Quick Summary

In this prospective cohort study, higher intakes of ultraprocessed food were associated with an increased risk of developing both cancer and either cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.

What was studied?

Whether the consumption of ultraprocessed food (UPF) is associated with the risk of multimorbidity, which was defined as the occurrence of both cancer and cardiometabolic disease (i.e., either cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes).

Who was studied?

266,666 participants (average age of 52; 60% women, 40% men) from 7 European countries, of whom 4,461 developed multimorbidity of cancer and cardiometabolic disease during the study.

How was it studied?

In this prospective cohort study with a median follow-up period of 11.2 years, the participants’ dietary intakes over the past 12 months were assessed using a country-specific food frequency questionnaire at baseline. From these data, the participants’ consumption of UPF (e.g., soft drinks, sweet or savory packaged snacks, processed meat, preprepared frozen or shelf-stable dishes) was determined using the NOVA food processing classification system.[1]

Subgroup analyses were conducted to determine whether the results differed according to the type of UPF, of which there were 9 subgroups: breads and cereals, sauces/spreads/condiments, sweets and desserts, savory snacks, plant-based alternatives, animal-based products (processed meat and cheese), ready-to-eat mixed dishes, artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages, and other ultraprocessed foods (i.e., artificial sweeteners, alcohol-free versions of alcoholic beverages, and nutrition powders and drinks).

The results were adjusted for various confounders, including total energy intake, alcohol intake, smoking status, physical activity, and socioeconomic status.

What were the results?

The average consumption of UPF was 413 grams per day (34% of total energy intake) in men and 326 grams per day (32% of total energy intake)in women.

Each 260-gram per day increase in UPF consumption was associated with a 9% increase in multimorbidity risk. After adjustment for BMI, the increase in risk dropped to 6% but was still statistically significant.

According to the subgroup analyses, animal-based products and artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with an increased risk of multimorbidity.

Anything else I need to know?

Diet and lifestyle factors were only assessed at baseline, so potential changes in these behaviors over time were not accounted for. Also, the UPF category and UPF subgroups did not include alcohol consumption.

This Study Summary was published on February 2, 2024.

References

  1. ^Monteiro CA, Cannon G, Moubarac JC, Levy RB, Louzada MLC, Jaime PCThe UN Decade of Nutrition, the NOVA food classification and the trouble with ultra-processingPublic Health Nutr.(2018 Jan)