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Cancer warning over processed foods which make up half of United Kingdom diet

15 February 2018, 08:36 | Winifred Adams

Cate Gillon Getty Images

Cate Gillon  Getty Images

Also, people who like ultra-processed foods a little bit too much were also more likely to engage in unhealthy habits like smoking and exercising less than their peers not interested in the foods.

Alternatively, the association could be attributed to the wide range of additives in ultra-processed foods or migration of bisphenol A from plastic packaging or even the formation of neoformed contaminants due to processing techniques, such as the development of acrylamide due to high heat, the researchers note.

The authors said: "To our knowledge, this study is the first to investigate and highlight and increase in the risk of overall - and specifically breast - cancer associated with ultra-processed food intake".

Foods on the list included packaged breads, buns, pizzas and cakes, crisps, industrially-produced desserts, sodas, fish and chicken nuggets, instant noodles and soups, and frozen ready meals. The foods were grouped according to the level of processing, and participants were asked to self-declare any cancer diagnosis, which was then confirmed through their medical records. It found that a 10 percent increase in ultra-processed foods led to about a 12 percent increased risk of cancer.

Ultra-processed foods make up between 25 to 50 percent of the average person's diet in several developed countries, the study said.

The researchers said the study shows that the coming decades may be burdened with a shocking rise in the disease caused by consumption of ultra-processed foods.

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Researchers say that there isn't confirming proof yet about what exactly could be the cause behind the link between cancer and consumption of processed food. The research also indicated an 11 per cent increase in the risk of breast cancer.

Not all processed foods appeared to be equal.

Ultra-processed foods are made in factories and come with ingredients that you would not find in regular kitchens. However, no significant associations were observed for colorectal and prostate cancers. And the more of them an individual eats, the higher their risk of cancer of any type.

Consuming fresh or minimally processed foods - such as fruits, vegetables, pulses, rice, pasta and fresh meat - was associated with a lower risk of cancer overall. "By working closely with our partners throughout the food supply chain, we can use processing positively to ensure all sectors of society have access to safe, affordable food". "A lot of them are probably safe, we need not be too alarmist", she said. "Ultra-processed sugary products were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer".

Foods such as mass-produced packaged breads and buns; snacks including crisps, chocolate and candies as well as foods nearly entirely containing sugar, oils and fats were considered ultra-processed by the researchers.

According to the study's results, 18 percent of the respondents' diets were composed of ultra-processed food, and that on average, there were 79 cancer cases each year per 10,000 people.



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