Ultra-processed foods linked to increased death risk from breast and ovarian cancer

Ultra-processed foods linked to increased death risk from breast and ovarian cancer

Ultra-processed foods linked to increased death risk from breast and ovarian cancer

ISLAMABAD, (ONLINE) - Doctors have known for some time now that what we eat has a direct effect on our overall health.

The body requires specific nutrients to perform its routine tasks. And a healthy diet is linked to lowering a person’s risk for certain diseases, including cardiovascular diseaseTrusted Source, type 2 diabetesTrusted Source, and cancerTrusted Source, as well as promoting better mental health.

Now, researchers from Imperial College London say eating ultra-processed foods increases a person’s risk for developing all cancers, specifically ovarian and brain cancers. And these foods also heighten a person’s risk of dying from cancers, especially ovarian and breast cancers.

The study was recently published in the journal eClinical Medicine.

What are ultra-processed foods?

Ultra-processed foods make up the fourth category of the NOVA food classification system.

According to this classification system, a food is considered ultra-processed if it is:

• an industrial-made food with five or more ingredients

• made entirely or mostly from substances extracted from foods, such as oils, fats, sugars, and starches

• includes food substances not normally found in culinary preparations, like hydrogenated oils and modified starches

• features additivesTrusted Source whose main purpose is to imitate aspects of natural foods such as flavors, colors, and emulsifiers

Examples of ultra-processed foods include:

• sodas and “energy” or sports drinks

• packaged cookies

• candies

• pre-prepared pizza and packaged meats

• sweetened and flavored yogurts

• “instant” soups and other mixes

• sweetened juices

• baked goods made with hydrogenated vegetable fat, emulsifiers, and other additives

Previous research shows eating ultra-processed foods increases a person’s obesity risk and can accelerate a person’s biological aging.

Additionally, consuming ultra-processed foods has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, colorectal cancer, dementia, and all-cause mortality.

Ultra-processed foods and overall cancer risk

For this study, researchers used UK Biobank records to analyze the diets of 200,000 middle-aged adults. Scientists reviewed participants’ health over a 10-year time span, looking to see if they specifically developed 34 different types of cancer.

Upon review, the research team found people with higher consumption of ultra-processed foods had a greater risk of developing cancer overall.

For every 10% increase in ultra-processed food in a person’s diet, that person had a 2% increased risk of developing cancer overall.

Additionally, researchers found for every 10% increase in ultra-processed food consumption, a person increased their overall cancer death risk by 6%.

“The findings of this study on overall cancer risk are in line with what we know about the importance of a healthy diet in reducing our cancer risk,” Dr. Eszter Vamos, a clinical senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London and lead/senior author of this study told Medical News Today.

“There are many potential ways ultra-processed foods may increase cancer risk, and we need further research to better understand these,” she continued.

“UPFs have poor nutritional quality, are often high in salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats and low in fiber, and promote obesity — which is in itself a risk factor for many types of cancers. Ultra-processed foods may also contain potentially cancer-causing agents such as some controversial food additives, chemicals generated during food processing, and chemicals from packaging.”
— Dr. Eszter Vamos

Diet’s link to ovarian cancer

In addition to overall cancer risk, Dr. Vamos and her team also found for every additional 10% of ultra-processed foods in the diet, a person increased their risk of developing ovarian cancer by 19% and dying from it by 30%.

“This is the first study to assess associations of ultra-processed food consumption with many different types of cancers, including ovarian cancer,” Dr. Vamos explained, adding: “We need further studies from other populations to confirm these findings.”

“However, previous studiesTrusted Source suggest that diets high in unhealthy fats and low in vegetables may increase the risk of ovarian cancer,” she said.

“Ultra-processed foods may also promote inflammation that could contribute to cancer risk. Furthermore, some potentially cancer-causing agents such as acrylamideTrusted Source, which may be generated during processing, have been implicated.”
— Dr. Eszter Vamos