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Potential Correlation Between Consumption of Ultra-Processed Food and Increased Incidence of Glaucoma

Posted on: June 28th, 2024 by Our Team

A study of Spanish university students recently conducted revealed that those who consume a higher amount of ultra-processed food (UPF) have a higher risk of developing glaucoma when compared to those with a lower UPF consumption.  The study used data from the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project conducted in 1999, a large prospective cohort study that focuses on Spanish university graduates in a Mediterranean setting to identify the lifestyle and dietary variables contributing  to various diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, mental illness and cancer.  An ophthalmologist clinically evaluated a subsample of 150 participants from the 19,225 participants (60.1% women) with a mean age of 38.2 years old to validate the self-reported diagnosis of glaucoma.  Participants were followed up on average for 12.9 years. (1)

UPFs were defined by using the NOVA classification system.  UPFs were defined as “industrial formulations made entirely or mostly from substances extracted from foods (oils, fats, sugar, starch and proteins) derived from food constituents (hydrogenated fats and modified starch) or synthesized in laboratories from food saturates or other organic sources. (2)

According to the NOVA System, examples of UPFs include, but are not limited to:

  • Energy drinks and sodas
  • Distilled alcoholic beverages such as whisky, gin, rum, vodka, etc.
  • Cookies
  • Fatty sweet, savory, or salty packaged snacks
  • Pre-prepared pizza and pasta dishes
  • Pre-prepared (packaged) meat, fish and vegetables
  • Chocolates, candies and confectionery in general
  • Canned, packaged, dehydrated (powdered) and other instant soups, noodles, sauces, desserts, drink mixes and seasonings.

In the SUN project, dietary intake was measured at the beginning using a 136 semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire and was repeated after 10 years to account for any changes in the participant’s diet.  For the study evaluating UPF intake and glaucoma association, participants were divided into 4 groups according to the daily number of servings of UPFs consumed.  Group 1 consisted of those consuming 1 serving or less, Group 2 more than 1-3 servings, Group 3 more than 3 to 4 servings and Group 4 more than 4 servings.  (1)

The findings revealed that participants in Group 4 were at higher risk of glaucoma compared to participants in Group 1.  In addition, when analyzed independently, UPFs from sweets showed a significant glaucoma risk when compared to sausage, beverage, fried food, fast food and dairy product consumption. (1)

The conclusion of the study was that a possible reason for the findings could lie in the increase in blood glucose levels caused by higher UPF consumption.  There is also the theory that increased consumption of UPFs, rich in additives and artificial substances may increase inflammation levels which could increase the risk of glaucoma.

  • Lopez-Gil JF, Fernandez-Montero A., Bes-Rastrollo M, Moreno-Galarraga L, Kales SN, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Moreno-Montanes J., Nutrients 2024
  • The NOVA Food Classification System, 2018

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