Now is the time you stopped eating ultra-processed foods. A study has found that high consumption of ultra-processed foods, such as frozen pizza, ready-to-eat meals and sausages among others, increases the risk of developing and dying from cancer.
Consumers often end up buying ultra-processed foods because it's cheap, convenient and heavily marketed. But these foods are high in salt, sugar, fat and artificial additives. And studies also linked these foods to type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Dr Kiara Chang, the author of the study who is a research fellow at Imperial College London's School of Public Health, highlighted that ultra-processed foods are produced with industrially derived ingredients. It often uses food additives to adjust colour, flavor, consistency, texture, or extend shelf life. Chang believes our bodies may not react the same way to these ultra-processed ingredients and additives as they do to fresh and nutritious minimally processed foods.
Researchers of the study that was published in eClinicalMedicine, looked at the association between eating ultra-processed foods and 34 different types of cancer over a 10-year period. This is said to be the first UK study of its kind that used UK Biobank records to collect information on the diets of 200,000 middle-aged adult participants. The researchers monitored the participants' health and looked at the risk of developing any cancer, as well as the specific risk of developing 34 types of cancer, and the risk of dying from cancer.
The study found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a greater risk of developing cancer, specifically with ovarian and brain cancers. It was also associated with an increased risk of dying from cancer – most notably with ovarian and breast cancers.
Researchers said that for every 10 percent increase in ultra-processed food in a person's diet, there was an increased incidence of 2 percent for cancer, and a 19 percent increase for ovarian cancer. The study stated that each 10 percent increase in ultra-processed food consumption was also associated with increased mortality for cancer overall by 6 percent. The links remained after adjusting for a range of socio-economic, behavioral and dietary factors, such as smoking status, physical activity and body mass index (BMI).
Reflects Lower Intake of Healthier Food
Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, outlined that people who eat more ultra-processed foods also tend to drink more fizzy drinks, and less tea and coffee, as well as less vegetables and other foods associated with a healthy dietary pattern. The expert said this reflects the impact of a lower intake of healthier food and may not be an effect specifically of the ultra-processed foods themselves.
Dr Eszter Vamos, lead senior author for the study, said their findings add to the growing evidence that ultra-processed foods are likely to negatively impact our health, including risk for cancer. But further research is needed to confirm the findings and understand the best public health strategies to reduce the widespread presence and harms of these foods in people's diet.