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Ultra-processed foods warning for pregnant women

Scientists have warned pregnant women to avoid ultra processed foods as a new study has shown that they could increase exposure to harmful chemicals known as phthalates.

Phthalates can shed from the wrapping, packaging and even from plastic gloves worn by food handlers into food. Once consumed during pregnancy, the chemicals can get into the bloodstream, through the placenta and then into the foetal bloodstream.

Previous literature has shown that exposure to phthalates during pregnancy can increase the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, autism and ADHD.

The researchers analysed data from 1,031 pregnant women and measured their levels of phthalate through urine samples. They found that ultra processed food comprised 10 to 60 per cent of the participants' diets. Each 10 per cent higher dietary proportion of ultra-processed food was associated with a 13 per cent higher concentration of phthalates.

Ultra-processed foods are made mostly from substances extracted from foods such as oils, sugar and starch. But they have been so changed from processing and the addition of chemicals and preservatives that they are hard to recognise from their original form.

Senior author Dr Sheela Sathyanarayana recommended that pregnant women avoid ultra-processed food as much as possible, and instead consume fruits, vegetables and lean meats. The findings were published in the journal Environmental International.

Study sheds light on sugary drink intake

Consuming sugary drinks is linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. But, a new study has shown that the benefits of physical activity do not outweigh these risks. These were the findings of a study led by the Harvard T..H..Chan School of Public Health.

For the study, the scientists used two cohorts of 100,000 adults, followed for about 30 years. The data showed that those who consumed sugary beverages more than twice a week had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, regardless of physical activity levels.

Lead author Lorena Pacheco said: "Our findings provide further support for public health recommendations and policies to limit people's intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as to encourage people to meet and maintain adequate physical activity levels."

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Say no to junk!

According to a new survey by ethical vitamin company Viridian Nutrition, two-thirds of consumers don't know how to spot ultra-processed foods (UPFs) or artificial ingredients in their supplements.

Of the 2,000 Britons who were surveyed, three out of 5 couldn't identify a UPF from its label, yet 76 per cent of people said they wanted to avoid UPFs.

Aimee Benbow, Head Nutritionist at Viridian, said: "Research clearly shows the negative impact of ultra-processed foods. A study of over 100,000 people in France linked UPFs with significantly higher rates of heart disease and strokes."

The survey also highlighted some confusion regarding supplements. When asked about key additives, 7 in 10 respondents didn't recognise certain ingredients found in supplements or know if they are good or bad.

In response to the findings, Viridian has created the Viridian Dejunk Your Life Report which gives people advice on dejunking not only their diets but also their entire lives. This includes: how to de-process your diet and identify ultra-processed foods, how to read the labels on foods and supplements and choose the purest options, how to simplify your digital life, how to exercise in a way that's proven to work and much more.

To find out more about No Junk and to download the Dejunk Your Life Report, visit

A healthy diet early in life may protect against bowel disease

A healthy diet from an early age may protect against inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a new study has shown.

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg analsysed data from more than 80,000 children. Parents were interviewed about their children's diets at 12-18 and 30-36 months of age. Diet quality was scored and classified as either low, medium or high. Higher quality equalled a higher intake of vegetables, fruit, dairy products and fish, and a lower intake of meat, sweets, snacks and sweet drinks.

The children's health was monitored from the age of 1 to 21. During this period, 307 of them were diagnosed with IBD. A high fish intake at the age of 1, compared to a low intake, was associated with a 54 per cent lower risk of IBD. A high vegetable was associated with an overall reduced IBD risk. A high intake of sugary beverages was linked to a 42 per cent increased risk of IBD.

"Although we cannot rule out other explanations, the new findings are consistent with the hypothesis that diet early in life, possibly mediated by changes in the gut microbiome, can affect the risk of developing IBD," said Annie Guo from the University of Gothenburg, the study's first author.

The findings were published in the journal Gut.