By Stephanie Stahl


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With Memorial Day weekend coming, there is a new warning about junk food. New research says eating a lot of ultra-processed foods can lead to premature death.

The research looked at things like snack foods and pre-packaged meals — items that usually have a long list of ingredients. They’re unhealthy and fattening and the study says they can take years off your life if you eat too much.

New research on ultra-processed foods finds a 14% increased risk of death for people who consumed a lot of items that contain extra additives.

“Consumption of ultra-processed foods, on a regular basis, significantly increased all-cause mortality,” said Lindsay Malone, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic. “This is typically going to refer to things like heart disease, or complications from obesity or diabetes.”

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The study looked at over 44,000 men and women over eight years. In the research, volunteers who consumed ultra-processed foods after two weeks ate about 500 more calories a day and gained two pounds.

However, when the same participants switched to an unprocessed diet with the same amount of calories, they lost an average of two pounds over the same period.

Ultra-processed food tends to have a lot ingredients and chemicals to extend its shelf life and they’re usually loaded with white flour, salt, sugar and fat.

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Experts say it’s best to eat foods like frozen meals or packaged snack crackers only in situations when there really is no other option.

“If you’re looking for convenience, try and stick to three ingredients or less, and things that you would recognize or be able to find in your own kitchen,” Malone said.

There are some convenient items like frozen fruits and vegetables that are quick and easy healthy options.

Experts say unhealthy items are usually found on the interior aisles of the grocery store and it’s best to stick to the perimeter where the produce and fresh food items are generally located.

Stephanie Stahl