These plant-based foods are bad for your health


Even if an ultra-processed food is made from a plant source, it is still bad for your health. — AFP

From heart health to cancer, weight management, and even the environment, the vegan diet seems to tick all the right boxes – on paper at least.

However, plant-based ultra-processed foods, such as packaged bread products, cookies, margarine, potato chips and certain beverages, appear to be an exception as these foods could actually be harmful to health, especially the heart.

There are countless scientific studies extolling the virtues of the vegan diet, which is said to be beneficial not only for the planet, but also for general health, and especially for heart health.

While it doesn’t yet seem to have dethroned the famous Mediterranean diet, whose diversity, and low red meat and processed food content, are praised by health professionals, plant-based diets are gaining more and more followers around the world.

And that’s a good thing, scientists say, except that a new study now points the finger at one potential downside: ultra-processed foods.

A team of international researchers has investigated the impact of plant-based ultra-processed foods on overall health.

Their research focused on data from 118,397 participants aged 40 to 69 from the UK Biobank study, who were followed for an average of nine years.

Not only was their diet taken into account, but this was also subsequently coupled with data collected from their hospitalisation and mortality (death) records.

The food studied was divided into two distinct groups: plant-sourced foods and non-plant/ animal-sourced foods.

Each group was, in turn, separated into two categories: ultra-processed foods and unprocessed foods.

Published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe journal, the research suggests an association between the consumption of plant-based ultra-processed foods and an increased risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease (+5%) and premature death (+12%).

The researchers specify that all ultra-processed products, whatever their nature, were associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

In contrast, no evidence of an association between the intake of all plant-sourced foods and the incidence of cardiovascular disease and mortality was observed, say the scientists.

“This study shows that the dietary contribution of plant-sourced non-ultra-processed foods is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease, while the contribution of plant-sourced ultra-processed foods is associated with higher risks.

“It is important to note that the dietary contribution of all plant-sourced foods is not associated with cardiovascular disease risk and the dietary contribution of all ultra-processed foods is associated with higher cardiovascular disease risk,” the study authors conclude.

This is not the first research to highlight the harmful effects of ultra-processed foods on health, although this study focuses specifically on plant-based ultra- processed products.

Another recent study revealed that 54% of Europeans said they avoided meat alternatives, not because of their taste, but because they viewed them as ultra-processed foods.

Finally, it should be noted that featuring among the plant-based foods in question, are packaged breads and buns, sweetened drinks and sweet or savoury snacks.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, cardiovascular disease is responsible for almost 18 million deaths worldwide every year. – AFP Relaxnews

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