Wrong dietary choices are among the leading causes of chronic health disorders, including diabetic neuropathy pain and sciatica nerve pain. People often make radical dietary changes in an attempt to achieve good health, but new studies suggest that reducing the intake of ultra-processed foods may be one of the most effective ways to improve health outcomes. Two recent studies show that a high intake of ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of issues such as colon cancer and premature death due to cardiovascular ailments.
Wrong dietary choices and a sedentary lifestyle are the two most relevant causes of premature deaths. In addition, they are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, chronic inflammatory issues, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.
Thus, people need to make various dietary changes like reduced intake of saturated fats, carbs, and more to stay healthy. Some people even switch to more radical diet forms like the keto diet, paleo diet, and so on. However, making dietary changes is quite challenging.
However, new studies show that a very simple change can prolong life, reducing intake of ultra-processed foods, and instead buying fresh produce to cook food at home.
It appears that most people are not cooking much at home. Thus, instead of buying fresh produce, they opt to consume highly processed foods. Thus, they might opt for frozen pizzas, canned beans, and packed juices. However, these foods contain many healthy ingredients causing diseases.
Just consider packed juices. Most of them are made using fruit juice concentrate. They often contain preservatives, added sugars, and other chemicals. As a result, they often lack the benefits of fresh fruits.
It is quite worrisome to note that now in the western world, most of the dietary calorie intake comes from ultra-processed foods like chips, canned foods, various frozen foods, beverages, packed juices, breakfast cereals, instant oats, and so on.
Recently two studies were published that show a significant risk of colon cancer and premature death in those who consume ultra-processed foods.
In the first study, researchers analyzed data from 46,341 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and 159,907 women from the Nurses’ Health Study. They found that the risk of colon cancer was 29% higher in the upper one-fifth of individuals, compared to the lower one-fifth of individuals according to ultra-processed food consumption1.
In the above study, it is vital to note that people in both the upper and lower range regularly consumed ultra-processed foods. However, the difference would be even more significant if a comparison were made between those who consume ultra-processed foods and those who eliminate such foods from their diet.
Similarly, another long-term follow-up study analyzed the data of 22,895 participants. It found that those who consumed more ultra-processed foods were at a significantly higher risk of premature death due to cardiovascular issues2.
Here again, it is vital to note that the comparison is among those who consumed lesser ultra-processed foods and higher. However, the difference would be massive if we will compare those who do not consume ultra-processed foods at all with those who mostly consume ultra-processed foods.
Therefore, it appears that buying fresh produce and cooking food at home is one of the most effective ways of preventing health disorders. Here it is worth understanding that frozen veggies or fruits may be regarded as minimally processed foods. However, packed juices, instant oats, and frozen pizza are ultra-processed foods.
People are now so used to ultra-processed food that switching back to really good food may be challenging. Moreover, many people merely lack the time and skills to cook food. However, if you want to be healthy, the best way is to buy fresh produce and start cooking.
Therefore, it would be correct to say that instead of switching to various radical diet forms, one can become healthy by simply cooking more often and buying fresh produce from supermarkets. In addition, one may buy minimally processed foods like frozen veggies, berries, and fruits. However, avoid foods with sprinkled salt and added sugars, as most such foods will also have other added chemicals. Furthermore, many ready-to-eat foods also contain unhealthy ingredients.
By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP