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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.[0] 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.[1]

Foods that have been subjected to multiple processes such as extrusion, molding, and milling are classified as ultra-processed.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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).[2]

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.[5] 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.”[6]

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.”[6]

0. “Staples such as some breads, cereals and fizzy drinks linked to higher cancer rates” The National, 1 Feb. 2023,

1. “Is there a link between ultra-processed foods and brain cancer?” Brain Tumour Research, 2 Feb. 2023,

2. “Eating these foods could increase cancer risk by 30 per cent” Nottinghamshire Live, 1 Feb. 2023,

3. “Eating ultra-processed foods like hot dogs and soda may increase risk of cancer, research shows”, 2 Feb. 2023,

4. “Ultraprocessed foods linked to ovarian and other cancer deaths, study finds” WMUR Manchester, 3 Feb. 2023,

5. “Fizzy Drinks, Processed Foods, Breakfast Cereals May Be Linked to Increased Risk of Fatal Cancer: Study” LatestLY, 1 Feb. 2023,

6. “Ultraprocessed foods linked to increased risk of deadly cancer in study of almost 200,000 people” 7NEWS, 5 Feb. 2023,

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