Ultra-processed would be linked to cancer

Ultra-processed would be linked to cancer – Its consumption in high amounts is associated with increased mortality from certain types of ca, especially ovarian cancer.

The global burden of cancer continues to rise, with incident cases expected to rise from 19.3 to 28.4 million in 2040. Cancer is responsible for one in six deaths worldwide and has surpassed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of premature mortality in many high-income countries. 

However, at least 50% of cancer cases could potentially be preventable and an unhealthy diet is a key modifiable risk factor. There is growing concerned about the possible harmful health effects of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) – foods that are industrial formulations made by assembling industrially-sourced food substances and additives through a sequence of extensive industrial processes.

Researchers at the Imperial School of Public Health (UK) have carried out the most comprehensive evaluation to date of the relationship between ultra-processed foods and the risk of developing cancer. These are categorized into soft drinks, mass-packaged bread, many convenience foods, and most breakfast cereals.

Ultra-processed foods are often relatively cheap, convenient, and heavily marketed, often as healthy options. But they also tend to be higher in salt, fat, and sugar, and contain artificial additives. It is well documented that they are linked to a number of health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The first British study of its kind used UK Biobank records to collect information on the diets of 200,000 middle-aged adult participants. The researchers followed up over a 10-year period looking at the risk of developing any type of cancer in general, as well as the specific risk of developing 34 specific types and mortality. 

The study found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher risk of developing cancer in general, and specifically with ovarian and brain cancers. It was also associated with higher mortality from ovarian and breast cancer.

For every 10% increase in ultra-processed foods in a person’s diet, the incidence of cancer increased by 2% in general and by 19% in the specific case of ovarian cancer.

Each 10% increase in ultra-processed food consumption was also associated with a 6% rise in overall cancer mortality, along with 16% for breast cancer and 30% for ovarian cancer.

These links were held after adjusting for a number of socioeconomic, behavioral, and dietary factors, including smoking, physical activity, and body mass index (BMI).

Although the study cannot prove cause-and-effect, other available data indicates that reducing ultra-processed foods in the diet may have significant health benefits. More research is needed to confirm these findings and to understand the best public health strategies to reduce the pervasive presence and harm of ultra-processed foods.

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