Food processing and cardiometabolic risk factors: a systematic review.

Revista de saude publica. 2020;54:70

Plain language summary

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) comprise the main cause of mortality in the world and approximately three quarters of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The aim of this study was to assess the association between food consumption according to processing and cardiometabolic factors in adults and/or the elderly. This study is a systematic review of eleven studies. Five studies (46%) had a sample size greater than 10,000 participants and the smallest sample identified evaluated 302 individuals. Results indicate that the consumption of UPF can have an unfavourable impact on the health of individuals, especially contributing to increase the body mass index. The cardiometabolic risk factors identified were overweight or obesity, arterial hypertension and metabolic syndrome. Authors conclude that their findings may contribute to strengthening scientific evidence that underlies public policies related to the area of food and nutrition and the coping with cardiovascular diseases.


OBJECTIVE To systematically review the evidence for the association between food consumption according to processing and cardiometabolic factors in adults and/or the elderly. METHOD Two independent evaluators analyzed the electronic databases PubMed, Web of Science and Lilacs until December 2018. We used the following terms: (convenience foods OR food processing OR highly-processed OR industrialized foods OR minimally-processed OR prepared foods OR processed foods OR ultra-processed OR ultraprocessed OR ultra processed OR unprocessed) AND (metabolic syndrome OR hypertension OR blood pressure OR diabetes mellitus OR glucose OR glycaemia OR insulin OR cholesterol OR triglycerides OR blood lipids OR overweight OR obesity) AND (adult OR adults OR adulthood OR aged OR elderly OR old). We assessed methodological and evidence qualities, and also extracted information for the qualitative synthesis from the selected studies. RESULTS Of the 6,423 studies identified after removing duplicates, eleven met the eligibility criteria. The main food classification we used was Nova. The consumption of ultra-processed foods was positively associated with overweight and obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. All articles included met more than 50% of the methodological quality criteria. The quality of evidence was considered moderate for the outcome overweight and obesity and weak for hypertension and metabolic syndrome. CONCLUSIONS The Nova food classification stands out in the area of nutritional epidemiology when assessing the effects of food processing on health outcomes. Although caution is required in the interpretation, the results indicated that the consumption of ultra-processed foods can have an unfavorable impact in the health of individuals.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Immune and inflammation ; Structural
Patient Centred Factors : Triggers/Ultra-processed food
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Journal Article ; Systematic Review