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Revealed: The 21 ultra-processed foods you need to avoid


The devastating health effects of eating too much junk are well known by now. But when it comes to so-called ‘ultra-processed food,’ not all types are created equal. A landmark study published this week found there are seven categories that are considered the most detrimental for your health.

Some of them were probably not a surprise - soda, microwave meals and brightly-colored candy. Others may have been more of a shock: white bread, breakfast bars and ketchup. The reason, so says the study, is that these seven food groups have multiple more stages of processing, which adds more synthetic ingredients that have little nutritional benefit and can cause harmful effects in the body.

Some of them were probably not a surprise – soda, microwave meals and brightly-colored candy. Others may have been more of a shock: white bread, breakfast bars and ketchup. The reason, so says the study, is that these seven food groups have multiple more stages of processing, which adds more synthetic ingredients that have little nutritional benefit and can cause harmful effects in the body.

They also contain more artificial ingredients like colorings and dyes, which have been linked to conditions like hyperactivity and cancer . DailyMail.com has picked several of the most popular foods from these categories to create a startling graphic warning of the most high-risk foods. The latest study was on 100,000 Americans. It lasted over 30 years.

They also contain more artificial ingredients like colorings and dyes, which have been linked to conditions like hyperactivity and cancer . DailyMail.com has picked several of the most popular foods from these categories to create a startling graphic warning of the most high-risk foods. The latest study was on 100,000 Americans. It lasted over 30 years.

'We observed strong positive associations between ultra-processed food and mortality outcomes,' the researchers wrote in the study, published Wednesday in the British Journal of Medicine . The team found that people who ate the most servings of ultra-processed foods - about seven per day - were four percent more likely to die from any cause than those who stuck to three daily servings.

‘We observed strong positive associations between ultra-processed food and mortality outcomes,’ the researchers wrote in the study, published Wednesday in the British Journal of Medicine . The team found that people who ate the most servings of ultra-processed foods – about seven per day – were four percent more likely to die from any cause than those who stuck to three daily servings.

Additionally, they were nine percent more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Parkinson's, ALS, and Huntington's disease. In particular, the biggest culprits were processed meats like deli meat and jerky, dairy-based desserts like ice cream, and convenient breakfast foods like precooked sausage and Pop-Tarts.

Additionally, they were nine percent more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Huntington’s disease. In particular, the biggest culprits were processed meats like deli meat and jerky, dairy-based desserts like ice cream, and convenient breakfast foods like precooked sausage and Pop-Tarts.

The researchers also warned against chips, condiments, snack cakes, and even some breads. Popular chips like Cheetos, Doritos, and Ruffles, for example, get their bright orange coloring from dyes like Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and red 40. Diet Sundrop Soda is also a culprit for containing yellow dyes. States like California , New York, New Jersey , and Missouri have tried to put these dyes on the chopping block because they contain benzidine, a known carcinogen. According to the FDA , ingestion of free benzidine raises the cancer risk to just under the ¿concern¿ threshold, or one cancer in 1 million people. The colors are not banned outright in the EU, nor are they banned in the US. But unlike in the US, European authorities must include a warning label that details the risks associated with the dyes.

The researchers also warned against chips, condiments, snack cakes, and even some breads. Popular chips like Cheetos, Doritos, and Ruffles, for example, get their bright orange coloring from dyes like Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and red 40. Diet Sundrop Soda is also a culprit for containing yellow dyes. States like California , New York, New Jersey , and Missouri have tried to put these dyes on the chopping block because they contain benzidine, a known carcinogen. According to the FDA , ingestion of free benzidine raises the cancer risk to just under the ‘concern’ threshold, or one cancer in 1 million people. The colors are not banned outright in the EU, nor are they banned in the US. But unlike in the US, European authorities must include a warning label that details the risks associated with the dyes.

They have been theorized to exacerbate attentional problems in children, leading EU regulators to mandate that product makers say dyes could cause ¿an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.¿ Those who love Twinkies and cereals like Cap'n Crunch will also take in a dose of yellow 5 and 6. Meanwhile, the researchers also flagged processed meats like Oscar Mayer sliced turkey and ham, Hillshire Farm dried salami, and Slim Jims. That's because these contain nitrates, compounds made from nitrogen and oxygen atoms. When eaten, nitrates can undergo a reaction that turns them into a substance called N-nitroso chemicals (NOCs). These can damage the cells that line the bowel, the organ that processes your food, which, in turn, can lead to the development of cancer. Several studies have shown a link between them and certain cancers like breast and prostate cancer, and a recent report from the World Health Organization declared processed meat a 'class one carcinogen,' which places it alongside smoking and drinking.

They have been theorized to exacerbate attentional problems in children, leading EU regulators to mandate that product makers say dyes could cause ‘an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.’ Those who love Twinkies and cereals like Cap’n Crunch will also take in a dose of yellow 5 and 6. Meanwhile, the researchers also flagged processed meats like Oscar Mayer sliced turkey and ham, Hillshire Farm dried salami, and Slim Jims. That’s because these contain nitrates, compounds made from nitrogen and oxygen atoms. When eaten, nitrates can undergo a reaction that turns them into a substance called N-nitroso chemicals (NOCs). These can damage the cells that line the bowel, the organ that processes your food, which, in turn, can lead to the development of cancer. Several studies have shown a link between them and certain cancers like breast and prostate cancer, and a recent report from the World Health Organization declared processed meat a ‘class one carcinogen,’ which places it alongside smoking and drinking.

The researchers also flagged condiments and dressings, many of which like Heinz Tomato Ketchup contain high-fructose corn syrup. Many experts have said that this artificial sugar is responsible for America's obesity epidemic . This is because it has been linked to blood sugar spikes, issues controlling appetite, and increased calorie intake. Other sauces and condiments like Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ Sauce and Walmart 's Great Value Maple Syrup also have high-fructose corn syrup on their ingredient labels. Additionally, a bottle of Coca-Cola is also teeming with it. Meanwhile, dairy-based desserts and certain breads, as well as breakfast picks like Pop-Tarts, also increased the risk of death. These are laden with emulsifiers, synthetic compounds that help hold ingredients like oil and water together.

The researchers also flagged condiments and dressings, many of which like Heinz Tomato Ketchup contain high-fructose corn syrup. Many experts have said that this artificial sugar is responsible for America’s obesity epidemic . This is because it has been linked to blood sugar spikes, issues controlling appetite, and increased calorie intake. Other sauces and condiments like Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce and Walmart ‘s Great Value Maple Syrup also have high-fructose corn syrup on their ingredient labels. Additionally, a bottle of Coca-Cola is also teeming with it. Meanwhile, dairy-based desserts and certain breads, as well as breakfast picks like Pop-Tarts, also increased the risk of death. These are laden with emulsifiers, synthetic compounds that help hold ingredients like oil and water together.

Some evidence has suggested that eating foods with emulsifiers can lead to adverse health consequences. A Spanish study in mice, for instance, looked at the emulsifiers carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, which are found in thousands of microwave meals, butters, and ice creams. A group of pregnant female mice were given water containing one percent emulsifiers, the maximum allowed by the FDA . Usually, anywhere from 0.25 percent to 0.8 percent is added to food. The team found that the mice's offspring experienced unintentional weight loss and anxious behaviors at 10 weeks old.

Some evidence has suggested that eating foods with emulsifiers can lead to adverse health consequences. A Spanish study in mice, for instance, looked at the emulsifiers carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, which are found in thousands of microwave meals, butters, and ice creams. A group of pregnant female mice were given water containing one percent emulsifiers, the maximum allowed by the FDA . Usually, anywhere from 0.25 percent to 0.8 percent is added to food. The team found that the mice’s offspring experienced unintentional weight loss and anxious behaviors at 10 weeks old.

Additionally, male mice were more likely to have weight loss, while females experienced anxiety more often. This is because the emulsifiers disturbed neural connections in the hypothalamus, a brain structure that acts as the body's control center. The hypothalamus produces leptin, a hormone that makes the body expend more energy, leading to weight loss. And a large French study of 100,000 adults published in The Lancet earlier this month suggested that continued exposure to emulsifiers raised the risk of type 2 diabetes . Additionally, packaged desserts and sweets like Little Debbie's Zebra Cakes and Teddy Grahams list cornstarch in their ingredients. This is usually used to thicken soups, stews, sauces, and desserts, and hold certain fillings together.

Additionally, male mice were more likely to have weight loss, while females experienced anxiety more often. This is because the emulsifiers disturbed neural connections in the hypothalamus, a brain structure that acts as the body’s control center. The hypothalamus produces leptin, a hormone that makes the body expend more energy, leading to weight loss. And a large French study of 100,000 adults published in The Lancet earlier this month suggested that continued exposure to emulsifiers raised the risk of type 2 diabetes . Additionally, packaged desserts and sweets like Little Debbie’s Zebra Cakes and Teddy Grahams list cornstarch in their ingredients. This is usually used to thicken soups, stews, sauces, and desserts, and hold certain fillings together.

According to the USDA, cornstarch has a high glycemic index, meaning that it can raise blood sugar. Over time, repeated blood sugar spikes have been shown to lead to diabetes and obesity. It's also a refined carb. One 2020 analysis found that a diet rich in refined carbs was linked to a greater risk of heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. However, the BMJ researchers noted that not all ultra-processed foods should be cut out. Dr Mingyang Song, lead study author and an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health, told CNN : 'Cereals, whole grain breads, for example, they are also considered ultraprocessed food, but they contain various beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals.' 'On the other hand, I do think people should try to avoid or limit the consumption of certain ultraprocessed foods, such as processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages and also potentially artificially sweetened beverages.'

According to the USDA, cornstarch has a high glycemic index, meaning that it can raise blood sugar. Over time, repeated blood sugar spikes have been shown to lead to diabetes and obesity. It’s also a refined carb. One 2020 analysis found that a diet rich in refined carbs was linked to a greater risk of heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. However, the BMJ researchers noted that not all ultra-processed foods should be cut out. Dr Mingyang Song, lead study author and an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, told CNN : ‘Cereals, whole grain breads, for example, they are also considered ultraprocessed food, but they contain various beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals.’ ‘On the other hand, I do think people should try to avoid or limit the consumption of certain ultraprocessed foods, such as processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages and also potentially artificially sweetened beverages.’

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