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Plant-based Ultra-processed Diets Related to an Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular Disease

New research on the health impacts of plant-based ultra-processed foods (UPFs) has revealed that they may pose a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases compared to less-processed plant-based foods. This analysis, led by the University of São Paulo with involvement from Imperial College London, utilized data from over 118,000 people. The findings suggest that although plant-based diets generally reduce disease risk, UPFs are associated with worse health outcomes.

The study found that consuming plant-based UPFs was linked with a 7% increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases compared to consuming unprocessed plant-based foods. Moreover, all types of UPF consumption, whether animal-based or plant-based, were associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and mortality from these conditions.

The researchers, whose findings were published in The Lancet Regional Health—Europe, indicated that despite being marketed as healthy alternatives, plant-based UPFs might be detrimental to health. They recommend that dietary guidelines be updated to reduce UPF consumption and promote healthier plant-based diets.

Dr. Eszter Vamos, co-author of the study from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, stated, “Fresh plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are known to have important health and environmental benefits. While ultra-processed foods are often marketed as healthy, this large study shows that plant-based ultra-processed foods do not seem to have protective health effects and are linked to poor health outcomes.”

Plant-based diets are generally linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. However, many plant-based foods, including meat-free alternatives like some sausages, burgers, and nuggets, are classified as UPFs, despite often being marketed as healthy options. UPFs typically contain higher levels of salt, fat, sugar, and artificial additives, and previous research has associated them with poor health outcomes such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

In this latest study, researchers from the University of São Paulo, Imperial College London, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) investigated the health impacts of plant-based UPFs.

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