The results of a study suggest that higher ultra-processed food consumption could be associated with an increased risk of cancer as well as cancer-related death.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE DOI: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.101840
The researchers produced an extensive assessment of the connection between ultra-processed food consumption and cancer risk. Ultra-processed foods are products that have been highly processed during production, which include the majority of breakfast cereals, many ready meals, mass-produced packaged bread, and fizzy drinks.
These kinds of foods are generally convenient, comparatively cheap, and aggressively marketed, often as healthy choices. These foods are however also typically higher in sugar, fat, salt, and are full of artificial additives. It’s now well known that these foods are associated with a variety of health issues such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
The study made use of UK Biobank data to gather the diet information of 200,000 middle-aged individuals. Researchers monitored the health of the individuals over 10 years, examining the overall risk of any cancer along with the specific risk of 34 different kinds of cancer. The risk of cancer-related death was also looked at.
The researchers found that higher ultra-processed food consumption was linked to a greater overall risk of cancer, specifically brain and ovarian cancers. It was also linked to an increased risk of cancer-related death, particularly with breast and ovarian cancers.
For every 10% increase of ultra-processed food in the diet of an individual, there was an overall 2% increase of cancer and a 19% specific increase of ovarian cancer.
Every 10% increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods was also linked to an overall 6% increase in dying from cancer with a 30% increase for ovarian cancer and a 16% increase for breast cancer.
These associations remained after adjustments were made for a variety of behavioral socio-economic, and dietary factors, which include BMI, physical activity, and smoking status.
Even though the study cannot prove causation, other available evidence has shown that the reduction of ultra-processed foods in the diet could provide significant health benefits.
The study is observational, so doesn’t show a causal link between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer.