Higher consumption of ultra-processed foods such as fizzy drinks, mass-produced packaged bread, many ready meals and most breakfast cereals, may be linked to an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer, a new study has shown.
According to the study by the UK-based Imperial School of Public Health, the researchers found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a greater risk of developing cancer overall, specifically with ovarian and brain cancers.
It was also associated with an increased risk of dying from cancer, most notably ovarian and breast cancers.
The study states that every 10 per cent increase in ultra-processed food in a person’s diet resulted in a 2 per cent increase in cancer overall, and a 19 per cent increase in ovarian cancer specifically.
Moreover, each 10 per cent increase in ultra-processed food consumption was associated with a 6 per cent increase in cancer mortality overall, as well as a 16 per cent increase in breast cancer and a 30 per cent increase in ovarian cancer.
“This study adds to the growing evidence that ultra-processed foods are likely to negatively impact our health including our risk for cancer. Given the high levels of consumption in UK adults and children, this has important implications for future health outcomes,” said Dr Eszter Vamos, lead senior author for the study, from the School of Public Health.
The researchers also discovered that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was linked to an increased risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes in UK adults, as well as a greater weight gain in UK children from childhood to young adulthood.
“The average person in the UK consumes more than half of their daily energy intake from ultra-processed foods. This is exceptionally high and concerning as ultra-processed foods are produced with industrially derived ingredients and often use food additives to adjust colour, flavour, consistency, texture, or extend shelf life,” said Dr Kiara Chang, first author for the study, from School of Public Health.
The WHO and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation have previously recommended restricting ultra-processed foods as part of a healthy sustainable diet, said the study.