Cancer, diabetes, depression… Scientists have warned about the consequences of consuming ultra-processed foods. The harmful effects could impact sleep as well. For the first time, a study has linked chronic insomnia to junk food.

Ultra-processed foods like chips, cookies, candies, and sugary drinks are filled with additives, emulsifiers, sugars, and unhealthy fats. A team of Spanish researchers has once again pointed out the cardiometabolic deterioration they cause in children. Specifically, diabetes, overweight, high blood pressure, and obesity are mentioned.

For adults, it’s not much better as a scientific study conducted in the United States highlighted an increased risk of premature death. Participants who consumed the most ultra-processed foods, about seven servings per day on average, had a 4% higher all-cause mortality compared to those who only consumed about three servings per day on average.

Studies focusing on the effects of junk food continue to show different conclusions, pointing out new harmful consequences on health each time. As strange as it may seem, ultra-processed foods can also affect sleep quality. For the first time, a link between the consumption of chips and other ultra-processed products and chronic insomnia has been established in a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Researchers from the Department of Medicine at Columbia University in New York worked in collaboration with the Epidemiology and Statistics Center of Bobigny in France to analyze the dietary intake of 38,570 adult participants. Nearly 20% of them suffered from chronic insomnia. Scientists found that ultra-processed foods accounted for 16% of their overall food intake. At the moment, they do not make a direct cause and effect link. The conclusion is more of a statistical observation, “independently of sociodemographic covariates, lifestyle, diet quality, and mental health status.” A key detail is that men had a higher risk than women of suffering from chronic insomnia.

“In an era where more and more foods are highly processed and sleep disorders are endemic, it is important to assess whether diet could contribute to poor quality or good quality sleep,” explains Marie-Pierre St-Onge from the Center of Excellence for Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Research at Columbia University, in a statement. And she reminds us: “our research team had already reported associations between healthy eating habits, such as the Mediterranean diet, with a reduced risk of insomnia and poor sleep quality (both cross-sectionally and longitudinally), and diets high in carbohydrates with a high risk of insomnia. The consumption of ultra-processed foods is increasing worldwide and has been associated with many health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer.”