Higher Consumption of Ultra-Processed Foods Linked to Increased Risk of Cancer
A new study published in eClinicalMedicine suggests that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods can be linked to an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer. The study, led by Kiara Chang from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, looked at the diets of 197,000 middle-aged adults and monitored their health over a 10-year period.
Foods that have been subjected to multiple processes such as extrusion, molding, and milling are classified as ultra-processed. Examples of food items include soda, potato chips, candy bars, candy, ice cream, sugary breakfast cereals, chicken tenders, hot dogs, french fries, and canned soups. The researchers found that those who ate the most UPFs (ultra-processed foods) had a 7% higher risk of developing cancer than those who ate the least UPFs. This link remained after adjusting for a range of socio-economic, behavioural and dietary factors such as smoking status, physical activity and body mass index (BMI).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation have previously recommended restricting ultra-processed foods as part of a healthy sustainable diet. This is due to their high levels of salt, sugar, fat, and lack of whole foods, as well as their many food additives, colorings and preservatives.
Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, UK, noted that “when looking at food intake of people reported to be consuming more ultra-processed foods, they also tended to drink more fizzy drinks and less tea and coffee, as well as less vegetables and other foods associated with a healthy dietary pattern (e.g. pulses, nuts, seeds, fruit etc.). This could mean that it may not be an effect specifically of the ultra-processed foods themselves, but instead reflect the impact of a lower intake of healthier food.”
Simon Steenson, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, a charity partially supported by food producers and manufacturers, added that “the findings add to previous studies showing an association between a greater proportion of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) in the diet and a higher risk of obesity, heart attacks, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.”
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