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Packaged snacks, sugary drinks may shorten life span, says 30-year-long study

A study conduced over 30 years, concludes that packaged snacks can shorten lifespan. Read on to now more for a healthy life.

It’s time to cut down sugary drinks, chips, cookies, or even ready-to-eat food from your pantry. A new study reveals that frizzy drinks, packaged snacks and ultra-processed foods can shorten your life span, and must be avoided at any cost. The study has found a link between higher consumption of ultra-processed foods with a high risk of death.

It links certain types of ultra-processed foods such as ready-to-eat poultry and meat, seafood-based products, sugary drinks, desserts with dairy in them, baked goods and processed breakfast foods such as cereals. Read on to learn all about the study, and what it concludes.

New 30-year study reveals side effects of ultra-processed foods

The 30-year study, published in The BMJ, was conducted on 74, 563 women and 39, 501 men who were perfectly healthy and had no history of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, or diabetes in this 30-year study. The intake of ultra-processed foods was measured by food frequency questionnaires, which were given to the participants every four years. There were 30,188 deaths of women and 18,005 deaths of men, after 34 years. It was observed that there was an association of higher mortality with the consumption of seafood, poultry and meat-based ready-to-eat products. Besides these, sugary drinks, dairy-based desserts and ultra-processed breakfast foods were also associated with higher mortality.

What are packaged foods?

The above study deduced that packaged snacks can shorten lifespan. It is, therefore, important to understand how these snacks and drinks can affect our bodies. Packaged snacks are processed foods, and according to the NHS, processing food alters it in some way during preparation, such as by freezing it, canning it, or even cooking and drying it. However, not all processed foods are unhealthy. Some foods need to be processed for safe consumption such as milk, yogurt and breads.

Why are packaged snacks unhealthy?

1. They have excessive sugar, salt and fats

Some foods have sugar, salt and even fat added during processing, and this makes it extremely unhealthy. When you eat these, your intake of sugar, salt as well as fats goes way above the recommended amounts. Plus, these foods are higher in calories. The NHS recommends that for adults, more than 17.5g of fat 100 grams is high. As for sugars, foods and drinks containing more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g should be avoided. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium) is the highest limit that one must consume. So it is important to note that the food we eat should not go beyond these numbers.

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Plates of potato wedges, burgers and chips
According to CDC, 40 percent of sodium intake of Americans are from pizzas and burgers. Image courtesy: Freepik

2. They contain artificial colours

According to a study, published in Public Health Nutrition, processed foods contain artificial colouring as well as flavour enhancers. Using artificial food dyes can hurt our bodies. A study, in Neurotherapeutics suggests that artificial food colours can make kids more hyperactive.

3. They contain preservatives

While preservatives are added to help prevent food from getting spoilt, food preservatives such as sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite can lead to many digestion-related issues such as bloating, acidity and gas. Besides this, Sodium Benzoate can lead to asthma, Sulphur dioxide can lead to skin rashes, and Aspartame can cause neurological damage, states this study titled Impact Of Chemical Food Preservatives On Human Health.

4. They contain hydrogenated or interesterified oils

These oils by specific processes to change their structures. Interesterification of oil rearranges the fatty acids, while hydrogenated oils don’t contain trans fat, and are full of saturated fatty acids. These processes can have an impact on cardiovascular health, states this study by the British Nutrition Foundation.

5. They contain sodium

Our bodies need minimal amounts of sodium on a daily basis, and packaged foods contain a lot of sodium, making them dangerous for us. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, high sodium can lead to high blood pressure. About 70 percent of sodium comes from processed and packaged foods. The Daily Value (DV) for sodium should be less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about 40 percent of sodium consumed by Americans is from pizza, burgers, poultry and pasta.

A plate of vegetables and chicken
A balanced diet should have 5 portions of fruits and vegetables in a day. Image courtesy: Freepik

What are healthy foods?

The World Health Organization states that a healthy diet for adults must contain:

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  • Fruits and vegetables: 400 g or five portions of fruit and vegetables should be consumed in a day
  • Sugars: Consumption should be less than 10 per cent of total energy intake. So that is 50 grams per day for a person who is on a 2000-calorie diet.
  • Unsaturated fats: Unsaturated fats should be less than 30 per cent of your daily energy intake.
  • Salt: Your salt consumption should be less than 5 grams per day. Also, the salt needs to be iodized.


Processed snacks can shorten life span, cause digestive ailments, lead to behavioural changes and one must try to reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods. However, that does not mean that you need to stop snacking. There are many healthy snacks such as fruits, seeds, and nuts that you can try instead. You can often combine these to make yourself something delicious, healthy and filling. blueberries and yoghurt, apple and peanut butter, as well as rice cakes with tomato, are some great ideas.

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