- A study found that people who ate a lot of ultra-processed foods were more likely to develop cancer.
- Every 10% increase in ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a 2% higher cancer risk.
- Ultra-processed foods include packaged snacks, reconstituted meat products, and convenience foods.
According to a study, people who eat large amounts of ultra-processed foods are more likely to develop cancer.
The study lasted 10 years and involved nearly 200,000 participants in the UK with an average age of 58. The researchers compared the amount of UPF they ate with if they developed 34 types of cancer.
In the study, UPFs included products such as soft drinks, mass-produced industrial breads, sweet or savory packaged snacks, breakfast cereals, reconstituted meat products, and convenience foods.
According to the British Heart Foundation charity, ultra-processed foods “usually contain five or more ingredients and contain industrial substances such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners and artificial colors and flavours”.
This is the latest study to link consumption of UPFs, which make up a large part of people’s diets in countries like the US and UK, to an increased risk of certain diseases.
This follows a US study last year which found that men who consumed the highest levels of UPF were 29% more likely to get colorectal cancer.
Researchers in the UK study concluded that middle-aged adults who ate a lot of UPF were at a higher risk of developing cancer in general, as well as specific types of the disease, such as brain cancer and ovarian cancer.
Every 10% increase in ultra-processed foods in a participant’s diet was associated with a 2% higher cancer risk, rising to 19% for ovarian cancer, the researchers pointed out.
The likelihood of a person dying from cancer also increased with FPU consumption. Every 10% increase was linked to a 6% higher risk of death, rising to 16% for breast cancer and 30% for ovarian cancer.
Dr Kiara Chang, author of the study published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, said in a press release: “The average person in the UK consumes more than half of their daily energy intake from ultra-processed foods. .”
“Ultra-processed foods are everywhere and heavily marketed with cheap prices and attractive packaging to promote consumption. This shows that our food environment needs urgent reform to protect people from ultra-processed foods.”
More research on UPFs and cancer needed, expert says
Tom Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, UK, who was not involved in the study, said there were many statistically significant differences between those who ate the most and the fewest UPFs, especially if they smoked, were obese, or exercised, which made it “statistically almost impossible” to include them in the study.
He said this type of study “may be useful in selecting new risk factors for further investigation. However, the definition of ultra-processed foods is so vague that it makes it problematic to establish any relationship of cause and effect”.
Dr Simon Steenson, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation charity who was also not involved in the study, said: “It is possible that a higher proportion of UPF in the diet is a marker of an overall poorer diet.”
Poor diets are often “higher in energy, saturated fat, salt and free sugars, and low in fruits, vegetables, fiber and essential nutrients – dietary factors known to negatively affect health”, a he declared.
He continued: “A problem with the concept of UPF is that this category may also contain commonly eaten foods that provide important nutrients, such as packaged wholemeal bread, which contains fiber and essential vitamins and minerals, or cereals. fiber-rich, low-sugar breakfast products.”
These types of foods “can be an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and provide affordable, widely available options that can form the basis of nutritious meals,” he said.
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