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According to a new study of more than 197,000 people in the UK, more than half of whom were women, eating more ultra-processed foods increases the risk of developing and dying from cancer, especially cancer of the ovary.
Overly processed foods include pre-packaged soups, sauces, frozen pizzas, and ready meals, as well as hot dogs, sausages, fries, sodas, store-bought cookies, cakes, candies, donuts , ice cream and many more.
“Ultra-processed foods are produced with factory-sourced ingredients and often use food additives to adjust color, flavor, consistency, texture, or extend shelf life,” said first author Dr. . Kiara Chang, National Institute for Health and Care Research Fellow at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, in a statement.
“Our bodies may not react to these ultra-processed ingredients and additives in the same way as they do to fresh, nutritious minimally processed foods,” Chang said.
However, people who eat more ultra-processed foods also tend to “drink more soft drinks and less tea and coffee, as well as fewer vegetables and other foods associated with a healthy diet,” a said Duane Mellor, registered dietitian and senior teacher. Fellow at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, UK, in an email.
“This could mean that it may not be a specific effect of the ultra-processed foods themselves, but rather the impact of reduced consumption of healthier foods,” Mellor said. , who did not participate in the study.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal eClinicalMedicine, examined the association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and 34 different types of cancer over a 10-year period.
Researchers looked at information about the eating habits of 197,426 people who are part of the UK Biobank, a large biomedical database and research resource that has tracked residents from 2006 to 2010.
The amount of ultra-processed food consumed by people in the study ranged from a low of 9.1% to a high of 41.4%. of their diet, according to the study.
The eating habits were then compared to medical records that list both cancer diagnoses and deaths.
Every 10% increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a 2% increase in the development of any cancer and a 19% increased risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, according to a statement issued by Imperial College London.
Cancer deaths have also increased, according to the study. For every additional 10% increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods, the risk of dying from cancer increased by 6%, while the risk of dying from ovarian cancer increased by 30% , according to the press release.
“These associations persisted after adjusting for a range of sociodemographic factors, smoking status, physical activity, and key dietary factors,” the authors wrote.
When it comes to cancer deaths among women, ovarian cancer ranks fifth, “representing more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system,” noted the American Cancer Society.
“The findings add to previous studies showing an association between a higher proportion of ultra-processed foods (UPF) in the diet and a higher risk of obesity, heart attacks, strokes and stroke. type 2 diabetes,” said Simon Steenson, a nutrition scientist. to the British Nutrition Foundation, a charity partly supported by food producers and manufacturers. Steenson was not involved in the new study.
“However, an important limitation of these previous studies and the new analysis published today is that the results are observational and therefore do not provide evidence for a clear causal link between UPF and cancer, or the risk of cancer. ‘other illnesses,'” Steenson said in an email.
People who ate the most ultra-processed foods “were younger and less likely to have a family history of cancer,” Chang and his colleagues wrote.
Heavy consumers of ultra-processed foods were less likely to engage in physical activity and more likely to be classified as obese. According to the study, these people were also likely to have lower family income and education and live in the most disadvantaged communities.
“This study adds to the growing evidence that ultra-processed foods are likely to negatively impact our health, including our risk of cancer,” said Dr. Eszter Vamos, lead author of the study and master lecturer at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health in a report.
This latest research is not the first to show an association between high consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer.
A 2022 study looked at the diets of more than 200,000 men and women in the United States for 28 years and found a link between ultra-processed foods and colorectal cancer – the third most diagnosed cancer in the United States – in men, but not women.
And there are “literally hundreds of studies (that) link ultra-processed foods to obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease and overall mortality,” said Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor Emeritus of Nutrition, in Food and Public Health Studies at New York University. .
While the new UK-based study cannot prove causation, only an association, “other available evidence shows that reducing ultra-processed foods in our diets could provide important health benefits”, Let’s go said.
“Further research is needed to confirm these findings and understand the best public health strategies to reduce the widespread presence and harms of ultra-processed foods in our diets,” she added.