To Your Health
June, 2024 (Vol. 18, Issue 06)
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The Ultraprocessed Heart

By Editorial Staff

No one wants an ultraprocessed heart – a heart that's affected by eating too many ultraprocessed foods. Let's learn why ultraprocessed foods are so dangerous when it comes to heart health – and how to reduce your consumption of UPFs to benefit your heart and your entire body, from head to toe.

Ultraprocessed foods are foods that have been highly processed. Consider a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain that's gone essentially from the ground / branch to your table. That's an unprocessed or minimally processed food. By comparison, ultraprocessed foods have gone through multiple processes before they reach your table; consider packaged snacks, cereal, processed meats, and much more.

The problem with UPFs, according to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, is that UPFs contain "additives like oil, fat, sugar, starch, proteins and sodium. In the production process, they are [also] stripped of the nutrients that help our bodies feel good and stay healthy." In other words, UPFs have unhealthy stuff added and some of the healthy stuff removed. That's a bad combination, which is why UPFs have been associated with weight gain and numerous health issues.

One of those health issues, as we alluded to, is a compromised heart, specifically in terms of cardiometabolic risk factors. Research published in JAMA Network Open suggests UPF consumption increases these risk factors – even in children as young as 3-6 years. Children with the highest UPF consumption had higher BMI, waist circumference, fat mass index and fasting plasma glucose; and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – the "good" kind of cholesterol, in that it helps remove bad cholesterol from the bloodstream – compared to children with the lowest UPF consumption.

Need any more reasons to make sure your family's diet is as low in ultraprocessed foods as possible? Talk to your doctor for more information.