Study suggests link between ultra-processed foods and cancer

Ultra-processed’ food – any product involving an industrial procedure and including crisps – now makes up half of our diet

Led by experts at the Sorbonne University in Paris, the researchers said Britons were probably even more at risk because they would consume more ultra-processed food than the French adults in the study.

The results showed that a 10 percent increase in the amount of "ultra-processed foods" in the participants' diets was linked to a 12 percent increase in the risk of overall cancer - and an 11 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer.

They were made to answer at least two 24-hour online dietary questionnaires, created to measure usual intake of 3,300 different food items (NutriNet-Sante cohort study).

In addition, other testing uncovered no significant association between cancer risk and less processed foods, such as canned vegetables, cheeses and freshly made bread.

To some degree this is on the grounds that processed foods are additionally connected with weight, which has been linked to cancer dangers, Linda Bauld, of Cancer Research UK, told the BBC. Past research has indicated certain cancers could be avoided with lifestyle changes.

These foods tend to have higher levels of total fats, sugar and salt, the researchers said.

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(Only 153 people got colorectal cancer, and Touvier says she believes there weren't enough cases to prove an association.) No strong connection was observed between ultra-processed foods and prostate cancer. The individuals recorded what they ate from a list of 3,300 food items that were then categorized by how processed they were, using a system called NOVA.

Exactly what it is about these foods or their packaging that might increase cancer risk isn't yet known, said Srour, a biostatistician in the unit of nutritional epidemiology. In 2015, IARC classified consumption of processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans" (Group 1) on the basis of sufficient evidence for colorectal cancer after assessing more than 800 epidemiological studies.

While the findings are significant, no firm conclusions can be drawn because they are based on an observational study of almost 105,000 healthy French adults who completed two 24-hour online dietary questionnaires and a review of their health records. They're also more likely to have heart and circulation problems or diabetes, studies have found.

Risk factors for cancer, such as age, sex, educational level, family history, smoking status and physical activity levels, were factored in.

Aside from deepening general understanding of the links between nutrition and health, the study's findings could also help shape policy debates in developed countries, including the marketing and taxation of ultra-processed foods.

Unprocessed or minimally processed foods in group one include as fresh, dry or frozen fruit and vegetables; packaged grains and pulses; flours made from corn, wheat, rye; pasta; eggs; fresh or frozen meat and fish and milk.

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