Breakfast foods that could put you at ‘higher’ risk of heart disease

This Morning: Dr Chris discusses heart disease

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Many of us rely on quick, easy meals to fit in around our busy lifestyles. While this has certain benefits, there is growing concern around the effect this could be having on our health. And certain convenience foods could be putting us at risk of serious heart issues, research has shown.

Health bodies have been warning about the potential dangers of ultra-processed foods for a number of years.

Ultra-processed foods have been highly altered and often contain a lot of added salt, sugar, fat, and industrial chemical additives such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours.

A quick guide to working out if a food is ultra-processed is if it contains five or more ingredients.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) warns that two breakfast foods enjoyed by many Britons classify as ultra-processed – cereal and fruit-flavoured yoghurts.

And if you are a fan of toast in the morning it is worth checking what type of bread you use as the BHF lists mass-produced bread as ultra-processed.

Why are these foods bad for my heart?

A study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2019, found that people who consumed ultra-processed food were at “higher” risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease of the heart or blood vessels, and is one of the biggest causes of death in the UK.

As part of the research, the health and dietary habits of more than 105,000 French people were assessed over a period of around five years.

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They were split into four groups depending on how much ultra-processed food they ate as a percentage of their average daily diet.

This ranged from 7.5 percent for the lowest consumers to 30.8 percent for the highest.

Over an average follow-up period of 5.2 pears it was found that each 10 percent increase in the intake of ultra-processed foods was linked to a 12 per cent increase in cases of cardiovascular disease.

The study said: “In this large observational prospective study, higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with higher risks of cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular diseases.”

Researchers believed there was enough evidence to prompt official warnings about consuming too much ultra-processed food.

“Even if it remains unclear what specific processes, compounds, or ultra-processed food subtypes play a more important role, evidence is accumulating for an association between increased overall proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet and increased risks of several chronic diseases,” the study said.

“It is therefore important to inform consumers about these associations and to implement actions targeting product reformulation (e.g, improving nutritional quality and reducing the use of unnecessary additives), taxation, and communication to limit the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet and promote the consumption of unprocessed or minimally processed foods instead.

“For precautionary reasons, several countries, such as France and Brazil, have already introduced these recommendations in their official nutritional guidelines.”

Other foods considered to be ultra-processed include:

  • Ice cream
  • Ham, sausages
  • Crisps
  • Biscuits
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Instant soups,
  • Some alcoholic drinks including whisky, gin, and rum.

The main type of cardiovascular disease in the UK is coronary heart disease.

Signs of this include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain throughout the body
  • Feeling faint
  • Feeling sick (nausea).

If you think you have cardiovascular disease you should see your GP.

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