From time to time I draw attention to some really SILLY science. Sometimes, you have to wonder why there would ever be funding for such a pointless “study”!

This one is laughable too! It was recently published in JAMA, which is no lightweight journal. But why?

A bunch of researchers from the Sorbonne in Paris have proved that eating junk food is bad for you! Wow, what a breakthrough, at last!

Seriously, I’m not kidding.

Doing all the work it was daft enough. But look what the lead researcher Laura Schnabel MD, had to say:

“Findings from this prospective study of a large French cohort suggest for the first time, to our knowledge, that an increased proportion of ultraprocessed foods in the diet is associated with a higher risk of overall mortality.”

This is the first time she’s come across the idea that junk food is very bad? Where has she been living, the Planet Zod? Their definition of ultraprocessed foods includes mass-produced, ready-to-eat foods such as packaged snacks, sugary drinks, breads, candies, ready-made meals, and processed meats. Such foods usually contain “empty calories” and have a high caloric content with little nutritional value. They are low in fiber and high in carbohydrates. Usually, they contain food additives and contaminants that may be harmful to health, including some that may be carcinogenic, according to the study authors.

No problem with that.

People often select ultraprocessed foods because of their affordability, ease of preparation, and resistance to spoilage. Such foods are also highly marketed and are often prominently displayed in supermarkets.

Accumulating evidence has linked ultraprocessed foods to increased risk for chronic diseases, including dyslipidemia, obesity, hypertension, and cancer. Whether this leads to an increased risk for death has never been investigated before.

Of course it does! The evidence is everywhere! So this twaddle about “never been investigated before” makes no sense whatever.

Seriously, though (just to be serious for a moment) this was a large and therefore very expensive study.

The researchers analyzed data from 44,551 adults aged 45 years and older who were participants in the French NutriNet-Santé Study, an ongoing, nationwide, Web-based nutritional study that was launched in May 2009. The researchers conducted a follow-up through December 15, 2017. Of the participants, 73.1% were women, and the mean age was 57 years.

Respondents reported that, on average, 14.4% of the total weight of the food they consumed came from ultraprocessed foods. Put another way, ultraprocessed foods accounted for 29.1% of their total daily caloric intake.

Now is the time to gasp with amazement, if you’ve a mind! French are eating 30% junk food! This is the nation that’s supposed to lead the world in cuisine. I can only say that standards have slipped. And in fact that’s my direct personal observation too: I’ve been travelling to France for decades and the general standard is now pretty low.

Michelin star restaurants go on doing what they do, and doing it well. But resort restaurants, motorway (freeway) cafes and other general eating places are miserably mediocre and disappointing. Supermarkets carry mainly plastic-wrapped food offerings. Plus the chains are everywhere now. You can eat your feces-tainted McDonalds on the streets of Paris, with all the gourmands! 

To sum up: For every 10% increase in the proportion of ultraprocessed foods in the diet, the risk for all-cause death increased by 14%.

But wait! We need confirmatory studies! (They always say that).

“Further studies are needed to confirm those results in different populations and to disentangle the various mechanisms by which ultraprocessed foods may affect health, including both their nutritional features and their food processing–related characteristics,” they write.

The authors emphasized that adjusting for an overall healthy diet (as estimated by adherence to French national recommendations) weakened the association between ultraprocessed foods and death but did not remove it. That suggests that an overall healthy diet may play a role in the association… 

May play a role?

Well, I hope you had a giggle. Seems to me there are far better things to try and investigate.