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NewsBites April 2018 Issue

Ultraprocessed Foods Linked To Cancer

Image © lisafx | Getty Images

Highly processed foods contain a variety of additives to engineer their flavor, color and texture.

Consumption of ultraprocessed foods is associated with greater risk of cancer, according to new research study in the BMJ. This is the first study that specifically links highly processed foods to cancer.

Ultraprocessed foods undergo significant changes in their raw ingredients (like grains, vegetables, and fruits) and may contain numerous additives to engineer their flavor, color, texture and shelf life. Typical ultraprocessed foods include frozen pizza, instant soup mixes, prepared desserts, ready-to-eat frozen meals and salted and flavored snacks.

The study followed nearly 105,000 French adults for an average of 5 years. Every 10% increment in consumption of ultraprocessed foods was associated with a 12% higher risk for overall cancer and an 11% increased risk of breast cancer. No significant link was found for prostate or colorectal cancer.

Why the connection? The study authors say that potential culprits could be the additives in ultraprocessed foods. Chemical byproducts from heating may also play a role, the researchers suggest. More research on the health effects of additives and by-products in processed foods is needed.

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