Eating highly processed foods like fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, chicken nuggets, instant noodles and cookies may be associated with an increased risk of developing cancer, French researchers have found.
Their study, published in the British Medical Journal, used data from nearly 105,000 French adults who completed online questionnaires, detailing their intake of 3,300 food items. Keep reading for the full findings.
French study finds a link between ‘ultra-processed’ foods and an increased risk of cancer
The food items on the questionnaires included packaged breads, buns, pizzas, cakes, chips, industrially-produced desserts, sodas, fish and chicken nuggets, instant noodles and soups, and frozen ready meals.
The researchers compared the questionnaire results to cases of diagnosed cancer
among the ground. A press statement from the journal that published the findings sums up what they found: “The results show that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with increases of 12% in the risk of overall cancer and 11% in the risk of breast cancer
The researchers found no significant association for prostate
or colorectal cancer.
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Previous research has associated highly processed foods with other health problems
Past studies had linked processed foods packed with sugar, salt and fat
, high blood pressure
and high cholesterol. But up until now, firm evidence that processed foods also increase risk of disease has been ‘scarce’, the researchers said.
The researchers emphasised that their study showed no more than an association between a diet high in ultra-processed foods and cancer, and that the study wasn’t designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. They said the association could be coincidental and doesn’t conclusively prove that these types of foods actively cause cancer.
That being said, it’s recommended that you avoid highly processed foods anyway, as they contain high levels of sodium, saturated fat
, trans fat and high fructose corn syrup. While these additives increase flavour, they don’t enhance the nutritional value of the food, which is why processed foods are said to contain ‘empty calories’.