Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and the Incidence of Hypertension in a Mediterranean Cohort: The Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra Project

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Some available evidence suggests that high consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) is associated with a higher risk of obesity. Collectively, this association and the nutritional characteristics of UPFs suggest that UPFs might also be associated with hypertension.

METHODS

We prospectively evaluated the relationship between UPF consumption and the risk of hypertension in a prospective Spanish cohort, the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra project. We included 14,790 Spanish adult university graduates who were initially free of hypertension at baseline who were followed for a mean of 9.1 years (SD, 3.9 years; total person-years: 134,784). UPF (industrial formulations of chemical compounds which, beyond substances of common culinary use such as salt, sugar, oils, and fats, include substances also derived from foods but not used in culinary preparations) consumption was assessed using a validated semi-quantitative 136-item food-frequency questionnaire. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for hypertension incidence.

RESULTS

During follow-up, 1,702 incident cases of hypertension were identified. Participants in the highest tertile of UPF consumption had a higher risk of developing hypertension (adjusted HR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.06, 1.37; P for trend = 0.004) than those in the lowest tertile after adjusting for potential confounders.

CONCLUSIONS

In this large prospective cohort of Spanish middle-aged adult university graduates, a positive association between UPF consumption and hypertension risk was observed. Additional longitudinal studies are needed to confirm our results.

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