New research links processed foods to cancer

New research links processed foods to an increased risk of cancer

They say danger lurks in sugary snacks, cereals and reconstituted meat products containing high levels of sugar, fat and salt, but lacking vitamins and fibre.

The hit list includes favourites like pot noodles, pre-packaged bread, ready-to-eat desserts, meatballs and chicken nuggets and artificially sweetened fizzy drinks.

Studies show a 10 per cent increase in the proportion of “ultra-processed foods” in the diet was associated with a 12 per cent increased risk of cancer and is storing up a future health catastrophe.

Thibault Fiolet, of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team in France, said: “These results suggest the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decade.”

Chicken nuggets are on the list of dangerous foods

Chicken nuggets are on the list of dangerous foods

Don’t risk cancer by eating anything with, respectively, much more than 15g sugar, 5g saturated fat and 1.5g salt per 100g. That’s not rocket science.

Tam Fry

The research, published today in the BMJ, is the latest to suggest you are what you eat, with certain foods having a potentially fatal impact on health.

It comes less than a year after Cancer Research UK warned being overweight is the biggest preventable cause of the disease after smoking and is linked to 13 types of cancer. It has also led to increasing cases of bowel, breast and pancreatic variants of the disease.

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Huge quantities of every day processed food have excessive levels of sugar, fat and salt stuffed in them and it’s all listed on the packaging.

“Don’t risk cancer by eating anything with, respectively, much more than 15g sugar, 5g saturated fat and 1.5g salt per 100g. That’s not rocket science.”

Takeaways are seen as a huge cause of obesity

Takeaways are seen as a huge cause of obesity and health issues

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “There is good evidence that too little fruit, vegetables and fibre and too much processed and red meat in our diets can contribute to the development of some types of cancer.

“Eating a balanced diet, avoiding junk food and maintaining a healthy weight are things we can all do to help stack the odds in our favour.”

The bombshell findings come from a study by researchers in France and Brazil who evaluated potential associations between ultra-processed food and cancer risk.

Results were based on the records of 104,980 healthy French adults with an average age of 43 who completed at least two 24-hour online dietary questionnaires to measure the intake of 3,300 different foods.

They were grouped according to degree of processing and cases of cancer were identified from participants’ declarations validated by medical records over an average of five years.

Risk factors like age, sex, family history of cancer, smoking and activity levels were taken into account.

Findings show that a 10 per cent increase in the proportion of heavily processed foods in the diet was associated with a 12 per cent increased risk of cancer overall and 11 per cent increased risk of breast cancer.

No significant association was found for prostate and colorectal cancers. Further tests found no significant association between less processed foods, like canned vegetables, cheeses and fresh unpackaged bread, and cancer risk, while fresh or minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, pulses, rice, pasta, eggs, meat, fish and milk was associated with lower risk of cancer overall and breast cancer.

Dieticians have long warned that our obsession with Chinese, Indian, Italian and fish and chip takeaways explains why Britain has seen a sharp increase in the number of lifestyle-driven cases of Type 2 diabetes.

A typical Chinese takeaway meal provides around 2,184 calories, accounting for 109 per cent of the recommended daily intake for women and 87 per cent for men.

One in five Britons eats a takeaway at least once a week while 79million ready meals and 22million fast-food meals are consumed each week.

Obesity is estimated to cause 18,100 cancer cases each year in the UK and costs the economy £47billion.

Dr Ian Johnson, nutrition researcher and Emeritus Fellow at the Quadram Institute, said: “The best approach to minimising the risk of most types of cancer remains to avoid tobacco use of any kind, take account of national diet and alcohol guidelines, eat substantial quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables, and maintain one’s body-weight within the recommended range.”

Tom Sanders, Professor emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College, London, said: “What people eat is an expression of their lifestyle in general and may not be causatively linked to the risk of cancer.”

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