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The average American gets more than half of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods such as soft drinks, chips, cookies, processed meats, and other convenience food items. These types of foods are often high in unhealthy fats and refined sugars and low in beneficial fiber. Findings presented recently at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 suggest that high intake of ultra-processed food is associated with poor cardiovascular health.

The findings were based on data from more than 13,000 adults living in the United States who provided information about their dietary intake and cardiovascular health, gauged by several measures of cardiovascular function, such as blood pressure, as well as lifestyle choices, such as physical activity and tobacco avoidance.

The data indicated that for every 5 percent increase in calories that a person obtained from ultra-processed foods, their cardiovascular health declined in a reciprocal fashion. For example, if a person obtained 70 percent of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods, they were half as likely to have good cardiovascular health compared to someone who ate 40 percent or less of their calories from ultra-processed foods.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of people living in the United States. Dietary interventions that include fewer ultra-processed foods could reduce cardiovascular disease-related deaths.

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