Eating ultra-processed foods could kill you

New study reveals 4% greater chance of death

ROANOKE, Va. – It’s important to eat a balanced diet, but the convenience of grabbing a packaged meal or snack when you’re on the go can win out. But a new study reveals the dangers of ultra-processed foods.

A recent study published last week looked at 30 years of data and found that people who eat ultra-processed foods are 4% more likely to die of any cause.

Even worse is that ultra-processed foods make up 57% of American adults’ diets and 67% of children’s.

Tora Murphy was born and raised in Roanoke. She runs her own catering company, Leo’s Catering & Co, so she knows the power of food. Murphy said she’s focusing on her health.

“Watching what I eat. Instead of choosing a bag of chips, I’ve been choosing healthier options: fruit, vegetables. Instead of going to get me a strawberry lemonade from Wendy’s because they taste good, I’ve been drinking water,” said Murphy.

Between busy schedules, work and raising kids, she understands it can be hard and expensive for families to make those healthy choices.

“It can get real pricey, you know? And then you resort to convenience,” said Murphy. “What can I afford for the family and how we all gonna eat?”

It’s easy to grab a ready-to-eat or heat meal at the store, but just how bad are those foods for you?

Ultra-processed foods are essentially anything that you can’t find in your kitchen. Ultra-processed foods contain additives like flavor enhancers, colors and thickeners, which make them shelf-stable and easy to prepare.

The study found that ultra-processed meat, poultry or seafood consistently showed “strong associations with mortality outcomes.” Sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, dairy-based desserts, and ultra-processed breakfast foods were also associated with higher all-cause mortality.

Dr. Christopher Pierce, the interim chair of Carilion Children’s, said ultra-processed foods are also linked to obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

“If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, it’s probably in the realm of ultra-processed or not good for you,” said Pierce.

Food preparation time and money aren’t the only barriers to healthy eating.

“There’s a topic called food deserts,” said Pierce. “You may not have access to get to the grocery store to get fresh fruits and vegetables.”

There are resources in the Roanoke Valley to address that problem. There are three community gardens in neighborhoods designated as food deserts where people can rent plots and grow their own vegetables.

When you’re planning out your meals, Pierce said one tip is to think about how ready-to-eat your food is.

“The implications of diet are profound,” said Pierce. “Using a little bit of common sense is key.”

Murphy said she’s starting small.

“Know your family history because some things could be prevented,” said Murphy.

“I want to live a long life,” she added. “Just take baby steps and figure it out.”

About the Author

You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!

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