Unpack New Findings on Ultra-Processed Foods & Multimorbidity

A new study finds the more a person eats ultra-processed foods, the higher their risk for having multiple chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The study is prompting Duke Health experts to underscore the importance of making healthy food choices and for more study on what it is in ultra-processed foods that might be driving multimorbidites up.

William Yancy, M.D., said the consumption of ultra-processed foods can drive the quick release of insulin, which can subsequently lead to undesired health effects.

Quote: “Insulin can stimulate fat storage and prevent fat burning, leading to weight gain, and it stimulates water and sodium retention leading to high blood pressure and swelling,” Yancy said. He said the effect might be compounded because these foods are high in processed carbohydrates.

“Hunger is not well controlled from processed carbohydrates; it is better controlled with protein, and from the bulk/volume that comes from water and fiber, which are found in vegetables.”

Elisabetta Politi, registered dietician at Duke Health, also said the study continues to underscore the importance of food choice but leaves some questions about specifics open.

Quote: “The relationship was stronger with artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and animal-based products. Interestingly, ultra-processed breads and cereals did not show an increased risk,” Politi said. “A question the study poses is whether alteration of the food form, such as adding chemicals, like aspartame, or contaminants in the packaging material, like bisphenol- A, could lead to endocrine or gut flora disruption.”

Bio: William Yancy, M.D., is a professor in the Department of Medicine at the at the Duke University School of Medicineand a medical weight management specialist.

Elisabetta Politi, is a Duke Health registered dietician and certified diabetes care and education specialist with a master’s in public health who sees patients at the Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center.




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