Eating Too Much Plant-Based, Ultra-Processed Food Linked to Early Death, Heart Disease

A new study says that a plant-based diet reliant on processed meatless meals can lead to heart disease or death

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of frozen pizza.


Stock image of frozen pizza.

A plant-based diet can be healthy — but not if you’re eating ultra-processed, frozen meals that are technically meatless.

A new study looked at the diets of more than 118,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales between the ages of 40 and 69 — and compared their diets with their medical records.

The findings: Those who ate a diet high in plant-based ultra-processed food (UPF) were more likely to see negative cardiovascular health — while those who ate an unprocessed plant-based diet saw health benefits.

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of frozen french fries.


Stock image of frozen french fries.

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“We observed that higher dietary contribution of plant-sourced non-UPF were associated with a lower risk of fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events, while contribution of plant-sourced UPF was associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events,” the study, which was published in The Lancet Europe, found.

The reason is that ultra-processed food has a “high content of unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars in UPF contribute to dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis, hypertension, insulin resistance, obesity, and metabolic disorders, all [cardiovascular disease] risk factors,” the study said.

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The problem, the study suggests, lies with ultra-processed items like ” ‘plant-sourced’ sausages, nuggets, and burgers that are produced with ingredients originating from plants and marketed as meat and dairy substitutes.”

However, the study’s participants largely reported eating packaged bread, pastries, and cakes — which are technically meatless.

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of doughnuts.


Stock image of doughnuts.

Overall, this is concerning for those who follow a plant-based diet, as the study said “vegetarians and vegans consumed more UPF than meat eaters, primarily through the consumption of industrial plant-sourced meat and dairy substitutes.”

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“We can’t always assume plant-based means healthy, as after all sugar is plant-based,” Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, United Kingdom. said in a statement, according to CNN.

“Many foods that do not contain animal products, including biscuits, crisps, confectionary and soft drinks, are technically plant-based but would not be considered essential as part of a healthy diet by the majority of people.”

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The American College of Cardiology reports that ultra-processed food makes up more than half of the average American diet, adding that "higher consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of CVD incidence and mortality, with each additional daily serving found to further increase risk."

And as Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, said, according to CNN, meatless foods like “crisps etc., sugar sweetened beverages, cakes, biscuits and confectionary... are unhealthy regardless of whether they are made industrially or home-made.”

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