Cured sausages and ready meals increase the risk of early death
Cured sausages, packaged snacks, and ready meals have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
Two separate studies published in the 'British Medical Journal' highlight the potential link between a high intake of "ultra-processed" foods and harm to health.
The public should be encouraged to eat fresh where possible, the researchers said, though more evidence is needed to understand the effect of highly processed foods.
"Ultra-processed" foods are manufactured through multiple industrial processes and are often ready-to-eat or heat, and higher in fat, added sugar and salt.
Sweet and savoury packaged snacks, processed meats such as salami or hot dogs, ready meals and pizzas are among the examples of the food group given by researchers.
The first study, carried out by scientists from France and Brazil, included more than 105,000 French adults.
A 10pc increase in the proportion of "ultra-processed" food in the diet was linked with a 12pc increased risk of cardiovascular disease, 13pc increase for coronary heart disease and 11pc for cerebrovascular diseases, affecting the blood supply to the heart and brain, the study found.
An association was also seen between intake of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and lower risk of reported diseases.
In a separate study, researchers from the University of Navarra in Spain analysed data from around 20,000 adults over 10 years.
They found that eating more than four servings of "ultra-processed" food per day was linked with a 62pc increased risk of death from any cause, compared with those who ate less than two servings.
Each additional serving increased mortality risk by 18pc.
"Improving diet based on adherence to minimally processed food - a key aspect of the Mediterranean diet - has been shown to protect against chronic disease and all cause mortality," the University of Navarra researchers said.
"Discouraging the consumption of ultra-processed foods; targeting products, taxation, and marketing restrictions on ultra-processed products; and promotion of fresh or minimally processed foods should be considered part of important health policy to improve global public health."