According to new research, there may be a connection between processed food and cardiovascular disease. Learn more below.

At ESC Congress 2021, researchers presented new research that shows a connection between processed food and cardiovascular disease. According to their research, consuming ultra-processed food on a weekly basis increases the risk of heart disease.

Ultra-processed food includes a wide range of food products like frozen meals, sweets and desserts, breakfast cereals, and instant noodles. Moreover, it also includes mass-produced bread, fast food, salty snacks, reconstituted meat (e.g.: chicken nuggets), sweetened beverages, and more.

This research sheds new light on the connection between these types of products with heart attacks and strokes. The study examines the effects of consuming ultra-processed food and developing or dying from cardiovascular disease over 10 years.

The Study

Processed Food and Cardiovascular DiseaseUsing data from the ATTICA prospective study, the study involved participants free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. In addition, they were given questionnaires assessing their diets and were assigned a score of 0 to 55.

Researchers then followed the participants for up to 10 years, examining the occurrence of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events. These events include heart attacks, unstable angina, stroke, heart failure, and heart rhythm disorders like arrhythmia.

The study had 2,020 participants (1,014 women, 1,006 men) with an average age of 45. Participants consumed 15 servings of ultra-processed foods weekly on average and there were 317 cardiovascular events during the 10-year follow-up.

Furthermore, the results show that the incidence of cardiovascular events increases with higher ultra-processed food consumption. For example, with an average weekly consumption of 7.5 servings, the incidence of cardiovascular disease was 8.1%. 

However, with an average weekly consumption of 18 servings, the incidence of cardiovascular disease was 16.6%. With each additional weekly serving of ultra-processed food, the likelihood of cardiovascular disease increases by 10%.

Eating Healthy Foods

Best Heart Health SupplementThe participant’s adherence to the Mediterranean diet (which focuses on fruits and vegetables) was also examined. Participants with lower adherence had a 19% higher likelihood of cardiovascular disease with each additional weekly ultra-processed food serving.

Moreover, those with a moderate to high level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet only increased their likelihood by 8%. However, the association between ultra-processed food and cardiovascular disease was no longer significant for this group.

“Evidence is accumulating for an association between ultra-processed foods and increased risks of several chronic diseases,” says Dr. Matina Kouvari. “Our study suggests that the detrimental relationship with cardiovascular disease is even stronger in those with a generally unhealthy diet.”

*Dr. Matina Kouvari of Harokopio University of Athens, Greece is a study author.

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