Intended for healthcare professionals

  1. Mark A Lawrence, professor,
  2. Phillip I Baker, researcher
  1. Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School of Exercise and Nutrition Science, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
  1. Correspondence to: M A Lawrence lawrence{at}

Fresh evidence links popular processed foods with a range of health risks

Over recent decades, the volume of industrially processed products in global food supplies has increased. This trend has coincided with a transition towards diets linked to a rising prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases in many countries.1 Among food processing classification systems investigating this phenomenon the most prominent is NOVA, which groups foods into four categories according to the extent and purpose of industrial processing involved.2

One such category is ultra-processed foods, defined as “formulations of food substances often modified by chemical processes and then assembled into ready-to-consume hyper-palatable food and drink products using flavours, colours, emulsifiers and . . . other cosmetic additives.”3 These foods include savoury snacks, reconstituted meat products, preprepared frozen dishes, and soft drinks.

In the 10 years since Brazilian researchers coined the term ultra-processed foods,4 there has been a growing body of evidence associating consumption of such foods with poor diet quality, increased cardiovascular risk factors (eg, dyslipidaemia, hypertension), and adverse health outcomes such as obesity and metabolic syndrome.3

Two large …

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