Study: The link between processed foods and cancer

  • Processed snacks, drinks and desserts may be associated with a higher risk of cancer, according to a new study. The research, published Wednesday in The BMJ, focused on ultra-processed foods, which tend to be high in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt.
  • In the new study, researchers found that, among almost 150,000 French adults, a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in a person’s diet was correlated with a 12% higher risk of cancer.
  • The paper is the first to explore the link between cancer and ultra-processed foods — that is, industrial formulations that typically contain many ingredients, including some not found in the typical kitchen — says study author Mathilde Touvier, an investigator at the Sorbonne Paris Cité Epidemiology and Statistics Research Center.
  • During the five years of study follow-up, about 2,200 people were diagnosed with cancer. In addition to the 12% increase in overall cancer risk, the researchers found that eating processed food regularly was linked to an 11% increase in the odds of getting breast cancer and a “borderline significant” increase in the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • It will take further research to understand which of these hypotheses, if any, is valid, Touvier says, so it’s too soon to panic.

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