Plain language summary
The NOVA system is a way of classifying the level of processing a food has undergone; ranging from un-processed to ultra-processed. Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are nutritionally imbalanced and are often highly calorific. Processed foods (PFs) are the next level down from UPFs and usually have added salt or sugar. Both foods pose a potential health-risk if eaten in excess, with high blood pressure being a potential resulting disease. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to determine the relationship between the consumption of PFs and UPFs and high blood pressure in adults. The results showed that as the consumption of UPFs increased, so did the risk for high blood pressure, however this relationship was not seen with the consumption of PFs. It was concluded that the high consumption of UPFs is associated with a greater risk of developing high blood pressure in adults and older people. This study could be used by healthcare professionals to recommend a diet without UPFs to those who are at risk of high blood pressure or in those who have already been diagnosed.
The increase in the availability of processed and ultra-processed foods has altered the eating patterns of populations, and these foods constitute an exposure factor for the development of arterial hypertension. This systematic review analyzed evidence of the association between consumption of processed/ultra-processed foods and arterial hypertension in adults and older people. Electronic searches for relevant articles were performed in the PUBMED, EMBASE and LILACS databases. The review was conducted following the PRISMA guidelines and the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. The search of the databases led to the retrieval of 2323 articles, eight of which were included in the review. A positive association was found between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and blood pressure/arterial hypertension, whereas insufficient evidence was found for the association between the consumption of processed foods and arterial hypertension. The results reveal the high consumption of ultra-processed foods in developed and middle-income countries, warning of the health risks of such foods, which have a high energy density and are rich in salt, sugar and fat. The findings underscore the urgent need for the adoption of measures that exert a positive impact on the quality of life of populations, especially those at greater risk, such as adults and older people.