Consuming processed foods could increase the risk of cancer, says study

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A prevention expert from UK's Cancer Research organization, Linda Bauld, has said that there is no cause for concern yet about consuming a bit of processed food.

The comments from Food & Drink Federation came in response to a report in this week's British Medical Journal investigating the possibility of a direct link between consumption of "ultra-processed" food and incidences of cancer.

Highly processed food such as chicken nuggets, packaged snacks and sodas may increase the risk of cancer, according to a new study.

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After an average of five years, the adults were asked whether they had been diagnosed with cancer, and their answers were compared with their medical records. "If confirmed in other populations and settings, these results suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades", the study's authors note.

However, their classification of "ultra-processed foods" appears to be vague and fairly loose, meaning it's not very useful for consumers looking to eat healthier or policymakers wanting to lower the risk of disease. The scientists also stressed that further work is needed to better understand the effects of the various stages of processing, on community level too public campaigns are needed to target healthy eating. Eating a lot of processed meat like hot dogs has also been tied to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. They also included instant noodles and frozen ready meals in the list.

Processed foods make up to 50% of the average person's diet in some developed countries and could be contributing to rising cancer levels, researchers working in Brazil and France found.

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"The approach of categorising dietary patterns that depend on industrially processed food in relation to disease risk is novel but probably needs refining before it can be translated into practical dietary advice". No significant association was found for prostate and colorectal cancers.

A study of 19 European countries published earlier this month found 50.7 per cent of food sold in the United Kingdom is ultra-processed, compared with 46.2 per cent in Germany, 45.9 per cent in Ireland and 14.2 per cent in France. For instance, they make you fatter, and being fatter makes you more likely to suffer from cancer.

Further testing found no significant link between less processed foods, such as canned vegetables, cheeses and freshly made unpackaged bread and the risk of cancer. "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". "They were really strongly associated, and we did many sensitive analysis and adjusted the findings for many co-factors, and still, the results here were quite concerning", study co-author Mathilde Touvier said. They often contain high levels of fat, sugar and salt, but are lacking in vitamins and fibre.

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