Researchers in Brazil and France found out that processed foods could be contributing to rising cancer levels, which becomes even more concerning in light of such food making up to 50 percent of the average person’s diet in some developed countries.
Research teams from the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Sao Paulo found that a ten percent increase in ultra-processed food intake was associated with a corresponding 12 percent increased risk of overall cancer. An 11 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer was also detected. The findings were published in the British Medical Journal based on a survey of 104,980 healthy French adults with an average age of 43, measuring their intake of 3,300 different food items.
The foods involved in the study were grouped according to the level of processing. Participants, in turn, were instructed to declare any cancer diagnosis. The participants’ self-declaration was confirmed through their medical records. Other considerations were also weighed in including risk factors as age, gender, levels of education, smoking, and family history of cancer.
The study also showed that eating fresh or minimally processed foods including fruits, vegetables, pulses, rice, pasta and fresh meat, was also associated with a lower risk of overall cancer. Ultra-processed foods may also include pot noodles,shelf-stable ready meals, cakes and confectionery which contain long lists of additives, preservatives, flavorings and colorings, as well as often possessing high levels of sugar, fat and salt. Critics of ultra-processed food also stress that processing strips out most of the nutrients.
The researchers underscored, however, that at this stage what they came out with was just an observational study, and is not conclusive as regards to ultra-processed food consumption and risk of cancer.
Lead author of the study, Mathilde Touvier said: “The results are very strong-very consistent and quite compelling. But we have to be cautious. It is the first study. We should not be alarmist. These results need to be confirmed in other prospective studies.”