Health Desk--17 February, 2018: A link between highly processed foods and cancer has been suggested by French researchers. They classified foods including cakes, chicken nuggets and mass-produced bread as “ultra-processed”.
A study of 105,000 people hinted the more of such foods people ate, the greater their risk of cancer. A lot of caution is being expressed about the study, but experts said a healthy diet is best.
The team - at Universite Sorbonne Paris Cite - used food surveys on two days to work out what people were eating. Those on the study, who were mostly middle-aged women, were followed for an average of five years. The researchers concluded: “These results suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades.”
But they said the findings need to “be confirmed by other large-scale” studies and research was needed to establish what could be behind the link. This study is far from the definitive take on ultra-processed foods and cancer. It cannot say ultra-processed foods are a cause of cancer. There are also factors that muddy the waters as people who ate a lot of ultra-processed foods had other behaviours that have been linked to cancer.
While the researchers did adjust their analysis for this they say their impact “cannot be entirely excluded”. Prof Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “It’s already known that eating a lot of these foods can lead to weight gain, and being overweight or obese can also increase your risk of cancer, so it’s hard to disentangle the effects of diet and weight.”