Ultra-processed food linked to increased cancer risk

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Processed food has again been linked to increased cancer risk in a new study by French researchers.
People with diabetes are recommended to avoid processed foods for a number of reasons. Not only do they lack nutritional value, but uncertainty regarding ingredients means they can have unpredictable effects on blood sugar levels. Processed foods have also been regularly linked with cancer.
Caution has been urged regarding these new findings though, with researchers stressing that the results cannot state processed foods are a cause of cancer.
The study investigated “ultra-processed” foods, such as chicken nuggets and cakes, which are made in factories with ingredients unknown to the domestic kitchen.
The Universite Sorbonne Paris Cite researchers used food surveys to assess what 105,000 people were eating over 24-hour periods. The participants were then followed for an average of five years.
The results revealed that a 10% increase in ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a 12% increased number of cancers.
“These results suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades,” said the researchers.
They added, however, that their results would need to be “confirmed by other large-scale” studies to establish the mechanisms behind this association.
Researchers agree that living healthily and eating a balanced diet is pivotal to reducing the risk of cancer, and while processed food continues to be associated with cancer, there were other factors that may have conflicted the findings. For example, participants with increased cancer risk were also more likely to smoke and consume more calories overall.
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “It’s already known that eating a lot of these foods can lead to weight gain, and being overweight or obese can also increase your risk of cancer, so it’s hard to disentangle the effects of diet and weight.”
The findings have been published online in The BMJ.
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