Ultraprocessed Foods Linked to Cancer and Early Death, Studies Find

CNN reports:
Eating a lot of ultraprocessed foods significantly increases men’s risk of colorectal cancer and can lead to heart disease and early death in both men and women, according to two new, large-scale studies of people in the United States and Italy published Wednesday in British medical journal The BMJ. Ultraprocessed foods include prepackaged soups, sauces, frozen pizza, ready-to-eat meals and pleasure foods such as hot dogs, sausages, french fries, sodas, store-bought cookies, cakes, candies, doughnuts, ice cream and many more….

The US-based study examined the diets of over 200,000 men and women for up to 28 years and found a link between ultraprocessed foods and colorectal cancer — the third most diagnosed cancer in the US — in men, but not women. Processed and ultraprocessed meats, such as ham, bacon, salami, hotdogs, beef jerkey and corned beef, have long been associated with a higher risk of bowel cancer in both men and women, according to the World Health Organization, American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research. The new study, however, found that all types of ultraprocessed foods played a role to some degree.

“We found that men in the highest quintile of ultraprocessed food consumption, compared those in the lowest quintile, had a 29% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer,” said co-senior author Fang Fang Zhang, a cancer epidemiologist and chair of the division of nutrition epidemiology and data science at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston. That association remained even after researchers took into account a person’s body mass index or dietary quality….

The study did find that eating a “higher consumption of ultraprocessed dairy foods — such as yogurt — was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer in women,” Zhang said. “Some ultraprocessed foods are healthier, such as whole-grain foods that contain little or no added sugars, and yogurt and dairy foods….”

[O]verly processed foods are often high in added sugars and salt, low in dietary fiber, and full of chemical additives, such as artificial colors, flavors or stabilizers.
CNN ultimately got this advice from Dr. Robin Mendelsohn, a gastroenterologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City (who was not involved in the study).

“While some ultraprocessed foods may be considered healthier than others, in general, we would recommend staying away from ultra-processed foods completely and focus on healthy unprocessed foods — fruits, vegetables, legumes.”

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