Highly processed foods may be linked to increased risk of cancer, study says

A new study finds increased consumption of ultra-processed foods, like packaged chips, may be linked to a higher risk of developing and dying from cancer. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 1 (UPI) — Eating more ultra-processed foods — such as cookies, chips and sodas — may be linked to a higher risk of developing and dying from cancer, a new study says.

Researchers at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health observed the diets of 200,000 adults in Britain over 10 years and found that eating foods higher in salt, fat, sugar and artificial additives may be linked to an increased risk of developing cancer, specifically ovarian and brain cancers.

The study released Tuesday also found higher consumption of over-processed foods increased the risk of dying from cancer, specifically ovarian and breast cancers.

According to the study, every 10% increase in ultra-processed food in a person’s diet increased the incidence of cancer by 2%, while increasing the incidence of ovarian cancer by 19%.

That same 10% jump in processed food consumption also increased the incidence of cancer deaths by 6%, with deaths rising 16% for breast cancer and 30% for ovarian cancer, the study claims.

Researchers adjusted for socio-economic factors and body mass index, as well as whether the participant smoked or was physically active. Earlier studies have shown British adults and children consume more ultra-processed foods than anywhere else in Europe.

“This study adds to the growing evidence that ultra-processed foods are likely to negatively impact our health including our risk for cancer. Given the high levels of consumption in U.K. adults and children, this has important implications for future health outcomes,” Dr. Eszter Vamos, lead senior author for the study from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, said in a statement.

The British study comes one day after a new survey from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation found that as many as 13% of older adults in the United States are addicted to highly processed comfort foods.

Overly processed foods include soda drinks, mass-produced packaged breads, ready-to-serve meals and most breakfast cereals. Processed foods are often cheap, convenient and heavily marketed, according to researchers. They are also linked to obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

“Lower income households are particularly vulnerable to these cheap and unhealthy ultra-processed foods,” Dr. Kiara Chang, first author for the study from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, said. “Minimally processed and freshly prepared meals should be subsidized to ensure everyone has access to healthy, nutritious and affordable options.”

Researchers said while their study was based on observations, more work is needed to establish a causal link between ultra-processed foods and cancer.

“Although our study cannot prove causation, other available evidence shows that reducing ultra-processed foods in our diet could provide important health benefits,” Vamos said.



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