New Research Suggests Ultra-Processed Foods May Increase The Risk Of Frailty As You Age, Particularly Among Women

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Walk into practically any grocery store in America, and you will find more boxed, pre-made foods lining the aisles than fresh produce.

It is no secret that processed foods are everywhere, making sticking to a healthy diet extremely difficult for people of all ages. In fact, one study published in The British Medical Journal even found that nearly 60% of our energy intake is comprised of ultra-processed foods.

These items can include anything from frozen, ready meals to fizzy sodas, packaged snacks, and nearly all products that include a laundry list of artificial flavorings, preservatives, and other additives on the nutrition label.

It’s also becoming more and more clear that a diet rich in ultra-processed foods is linked to a higher risk of numerous health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, bowel cancer, and cognitive decline.

But, a new study has raised the stakes even further – suggesting that highly processed foods might also elevate the risk of frailty as you age, particularly in women.

About 15% of Americans aged 65 and above are impacted by frailty, a prevalent condition in older adults. It is typically marked by a diminished capacity to respond to and recover from injury and activity, a decline in muscle strength, heightened susceptibility to stressors, and numerous physical changes that make daily tasks more challenging.

The latest study, conducted by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, included 63,743 non-frail women aged 60 and older. These participants were tracked over a period of at least 26 years, and every four years, they answered a series of questions about their diet and lifestyle.

Throughout the study, 15,186 cases of frailty were recorded, and these cases seemed to be strongly associated with participants’ diets.

“Ultra-processed food (servings per day) was directly associated with risk of frailty. We found a higher frailty risk with each serving per day of artificial and sugar-sweetened beverages; fats, spreads, and condiments; yogurt and dairy-based desserts; and other ultra-processed foods,” the researchers explained.

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