Unmasking hidden risks: New research connects ultra-processed foods to cancer threat

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NEW YORK, Nov 23, (Agencies): A recent study suggests that a higher intake of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) may elevate the risk of developing cancers in the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Published in the European Journal of Nutrition, the research reveals a 23% increased risk of head and neck cancer and a 24% higher risk of esophageal cancer among individuals consuming larger quantities of UPFs.

New study links UPFs to cancer risk.

Ultra-processed foods, characterized by additives, preservatives, and additional ingredients like sugar, starch, fats, and hydrogenated oils to enhance taste and shelf life, have become household staples. Common examples include cereals, chips, pastries, cookies, chicken tenders, breads, deli meats, sodas, and ice cream.

Contrary to previous beliefs linking cancer risk with higher body fat due to UPF consumption, the study challenges this notion. Lead author Fernanda Morales-Berstein notes that while UPFs are associated with excess weight, the study found that the link to upper-aerodigestive tract cancer wasn’t strongly explained by body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio.

This suggests that there may be inherent qualities in UPFs and their processing methods that contribute to increased cancer risk. The study, analyzing 14 years of data from over 450,000 individuals in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort, highlights a more prominent link between cancer and UPF consumption than with body fat.

The researchers propose that additives in UPFs might play a role in these findings, as these additives have been associated with various diseases. However, they emphasize the need for further research to definitively establish whether UPFs are the direct cause of the observed cancers, considering additional factors that may influence the results.

While UPFs are correlated with adverse health outcomes, the study underscores the necessity for more research to understand whether they cause these outcomes or if other factors such as overall health-related behaviors and socioeconomic position contribute to the link. The authors advocate for continued investigations to identify effective interventions that could potentially improve health outcomes associated with high UPF consumption.

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